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I used to know what my favourite books were

For about five years, I knew what my favourite books were. Each represented a series which I loved, but was my favourite of the series. I haven’t stopped reading but, it’s the end of the year, and I have realised that I can no longer tell you my favourite books, just the books I have read and enjoyed recently, perhaps. I feel like I’ve lost my gauge, that books still ground me, but for the moment it is books in general, and not any books in particular. 

Once, my favourite books were:

  • Squire, by Tamora Pierce
  • Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
  • Lirael, by Garth Nix
  • The FitzOsbornes in Exile, by Michelle Cooper.

Most of these books were ones I had reread multiple times. They seemed to express something fundamental about my identity and my sense of self. Their main characters were plucky teenage girls embroiled in activities far beyond what they thought they were capable of dealing with, much as I felt myself to be.

The thing is, I still love those books, and what they meant to me, but I’m not sure that they’re my absolute favourites any more.

When I started doing English, I had watched various videos and read about how studying English can mean you lose your love of reading. I was completely adamant that I wasn’t studying English because I loved reading, but because I loved talking about and analysing literature. That’s still true. But as much as I’ve tried, studying English has changed how I relate to books. I still love reading, completely, absolutely, and I think I always will. But I read less YA now. I don’t really know what my favourite genres are. I feel like there are a lot of things which I could read which I’d get so much out of. I am still curious and care wildly about books, but I don’t have those same favourites, even though the nostalgia means that they’re books which will always be dear for me.

I feel unmoored with my reading. I feel like I’ve lost the particularities of my identity as a reader and I am now exposed to so much more reading, and reading material. I’ve stopped judging people who don’t read, even though I think that there is enjoyment in it for everyone. I read poetry, and non-fiction, and journalism, and I listen to podcasts, and all of these feed my curiosity and sense of myself, but are not always in book form.

What I like about studying English is that it means I am exposed to so many novels and stories which I wouldn’t read otherwise. It is a true joy to study these with other people! but there’s also a loss, because I read so much, and reading is part of what I work, and the aspects of my identity which reading speaks to has changed.

I am frustrated because all of this feels so inarticulate: I am saying, over and over, in different ways, that I love books, and that they are part of who I am, but not the same part of who I am. I am an English student! I am a writer! I should be able to explain these things! And I’m an adult now, no longer a teenager; shouldn’t my sense of identity be settling, not still changing? I want to keep writing this book blog, but when I’m not reading the same books, or in the same way, as I used to, how can I?

Here are some books I love

  • The End of Night by Paul Bogard
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond
  • Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman
  • The World Without Us by Mirelle Juchau
  • Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

I’ve given these books ratings on Goodreads, but I don’t really know how to rate them, how to articulate my response to them. But I still read, and I still try to find words for words, and perhaps the greatest gift of books–the reason I’ll never stop reading–is that when I have language for the world, and for myself, I can start to figure it out.

how do you read? how does reading change? do you ever not have the right words? 

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