“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

I have always been a massive bookworm. I would drive my mother mad every time we went shopping by always running into the nearest WHSmith or Waterstones, and picking out a pile of books I wanted to read. It took me a very long time to get into the habit of reading, as my English used to be quite poor when I was younger. My mum would constantly take me to the library and I would pick out a range of books, from teen romance and fantasies to comics. A few years down the line, I think she, just slightly, started regretting being so encouraging.

Like a lot of kids in this country, the Harry Potter series played a massive role in my life as I was growing up. I would rush to the bookstore every time a new book was released. The most vivid memory I have of this was when The Deathly Hallows was released. I had been up in Blackpool with my uncle's family for about a week that summer, and my mum and I were set to come back to London the day the book was being released. I just remember leaving my suitcase on the platform, as soon as I got off the train, sprinting to the WHSmith inside Euston Station, and grabbing one of the few books left on the shelf. My mother, and all those who witnessed the scene, probably thought I was crazy. But it felt like such a big achievement to me. I was a slower reader when I started the series, but as the years went on, and I started reading other books as well, I was able to finish the 7th book in a personal record of 3 days.

There was a time where you would never see me without a book. I would sit in bed all day reading, take it to the dining table during meals, and be reading it in the living room when we got guests. I got told off a lot for this, as you can imagine, and toned it down a lot since.

But I still read. A lot.

The day after my 18th birthday, I was sitting an A-Level exam, and spent my birthday in the library with my friends revising, where I stumbled across their used book sale. I bought 13 books that day, and lugged them home in a bin bag as they didn't have anything else I could carry all those books in. Again, my mother was not impressed.

The only time my reading died down was when I started university. I barely found time to do the work I was meant to do, let alone find time to read. Slowly, it eventually led to me feeling less motivated to read. I would go months without even picking up a book, and just occasionally reading an e-book on my phone if I had to find a way to pass time. But I hated e-books. I never felt like I was getting lost in the pages, never felt like I was enjoying the action of reading. I have ventured out and bought new books to read, but again, just did not feel motivated to read.

Recently, I went home for 4 weeks, and randomly decided to take a look at my bookshelf that I had left behind when I moved away. I found so many books I spent my childhood and teenage years reading, and picked up a few I wanted to take back with me to Southampton. These included You Wait Till I'm Older Than You by Michael Rosen, which I got signed by him when I was about 9 years old, A Brief History of Time by Professor Stephen Hawking and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

But the book that inspired me to write this post is The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. This book got me through so many hardships, and it was exactly the therapy I needed. I started reading it slowly, more and more pages every day, slowly becoming immersed into the book again. I have never read a book that has changed the way I see the world, the way I see life, in such a significant way.  Reading it again has honestly made me love reading again, and I'd like to think it's helping me improve myself and become a better person.

Just the other day, a man saw me reading it on the train and approached me as we both alighted the train at the station. "That's an amazing book, isn't it?!", he said. What followed was a short but passionate conversation about the book, with him recommending other books by the author. You may think I'm exaggerating this but those few minutes made my day. To engage in a conversation with a stranger over a mutual interest in a book. Not a TV show, or celebrity gossip or an app. But a book. I feel like no one does this anymore, which is so sad.

I observed an English lesson during my placement at school last week (which I talked about in my blog about my Teach First Experience), where the kids were starting a new book, Skellig by David Almond. They were told to discuss what they thought they book was about, from just looking at the cover, and then to read the blurb and explain how it made them feel. Frankly, it made me feel really curious. The artwork on the cover was mysterious, and so was the blurb. You just didn't know where the story was going to lead. To hear the opinions, and the imaginative ideas of what the kids thought the book was about, was so exciting and fascinating. You don't see a lot of that these days. Yes, there were the odd few students in that class who were just not interested, but the majority of the class took an interest and participated in the tasks set by the teacher.

I nag at my boyfriend every day, trying to get him into the habit of reading. For his birthday 2 years ago, back before we started dating, I bought him my favourite story from the Sherlock Holmes collection, The Hound of the Baskervilles. He didn't get very far with it and doesn't even know where the book is now. Next, I gave him the Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling to read. He found it too childish. My most recent attempt has been with the Demonata series by Darren Shan. I used to love these books, and the Saga of Darren Shan, as a teenager. My imagination would run wild, dreaming up what these frightening demons would look like, and I figured it might help with his imagination. Believe it or not, he actually started reading the book properly! He's gotten quite far into the novel, and has been finding it quite interesting. But I really hope he keeps this new habit up.

Reading really changes the way in which you see the world around you; the way you understand the things in life. You're able to take a creative approach to problems, and I found myself becoming more empathetic. I like to think that the reason why I can be both mature for my age, but also childish and fun, is because of reading.

I'd like to end with a quote by Dr. Seuss which quite nicely sums up how I feel about reading.

The more you read, the more things you know,  the more that you learn, the more places you'll go.


Published by Mensi Suntharalingam