I am going to brag a little bit. Not that it is really important though as I am just one of 7.5 billion people on this earth and there are probably a billion or more people who could boast greater feats that I am about to in a moment; however, I think it’s okay to take a moment and be proud of something you managed to do. In a way, what I am about to brag about is not even that significant as it was something I achieved years ago and something I have maintained — at times, not all that consistently — and I am making an extra effort this year to even grow in this area. Alright, if you have read this far and your curiosity has peaked, I will not hold back:
In the fourth grade, I scored a reading comprehension level of post-high school on a standardized test.
I did that.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Cool, you can read, so can I. No biggie.” And you’re right, it really isn’t all that impressive. I mean, at the time, I felt pretty cool. Sure, it could have been as easy as circling B when I wasn’t certain of the answer but I actually was and still am a pretty decent reader. It may have been my mother reading to me at a young age or encouraging me to learn how to read books like, Nate the Great Detective and See Spot Run. (Where was Spot going? Why was he going? These questions still haunt me to this day.) It could have been my desire to create stories at a young age. I would draw my own Garfield comics and I think at one point I even attempted to write my own Star Wars fan fiction at six years-old. Maybe it was just boredom and a lack of good cartoons on television at all times. Maybe I only read because I was home schooled for the first three years of my education and it was a requirement.
The act of reading can feel, at times, so unremarkable. We do it all the time. Whether it’s reading street signs as we try to find our way to a friend’s house for the first time or it’s reading your boss’s angry email about how you forgot to restock the coffee, it is something we do and a skill we must have to even taste a little bit of success.
I think as adults though, reading is something we should cherish. In school we were tasked with reading books that may have held no interest but as an adult, you get to choose whatever the hell you want to read. (I mean, you could do that as a kid but for many, when you’re required to do something for school it can become a chore to try to do it for fun.) This freedom gives us opportunity that we may not have had elsewhere. We can learn new skills from reading; we can explore different universes; we can use that decaying imagination to curb cynicism. When a book is in your hands (or ears, audio books are cool, too), the world becomes your oyster. We take it, we pry its dirty, unassuming shell open with a sharp knife of wit and we gleam from it a priceless pearl that would otherwise go untouched.
There is a growing and seemingly popular idea that reading is an act of snobbery. That to be well read is to be elitist. I don’t read because I want it to be a means of being better than someone else. I read because I want to just be better. I read to escape as well as learn something about who I am, what makes a hero, what I can do to show my love to those around me more.
There’s another idea, perhaps less popular, that reading is a path to success. Read if you want to succeed is a simple assumption. I don’t necessarily think it is true. Not everyone who succeeds is well read and not everyone who is well read succeeds (at least by worldly means).
I think one thing lacking in our current world of information is a desire to learn. In school, I did not even share a smidgen of this desire. I did my duty. I wrote papers at 3 a.m. the day they were due. I signed my name and the date and sometimes reaped unjust rewards and other times blatant, warranted critiques (with red marks included). There’s talk about how kids are growing up so entitled, how this coming generation knows nothing of hardship and then we test them as if checking their knowledge somehow gives them understanding. We don’t teach them how to learn; we teach them how to give answers to questions.
Read if you want to succeed, sure; however, learn if you want to be.
Before 2018, I wrote down a list of books I wanted to read throughout the year. Books that interested me, ranging from Star Wars to The Idiot. I did not do this because I want to succeed through some magical conspiracy of words that is reading. I did it because I wanted to learn and enjoy it.
Alright, I am done bragging.
My 2018 reading list (so far):
Star Wars: Lost StarsAuthority (Part Two of the Southern Reach trilogy)
Annihilation (Part One of the Southern Reach trilogy)
Acceptance (Part Three of the Southern Reach trilogy)
Of Mice and Men
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The Book of Strange New Things
The Expanse Series
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy