Reading. It’s something I’ve been doing for longer than I can remember. Even as a baby, my mother used to put old magazines in my cot and when I woke up, I’d sit there and flick through them. Whenever my parents couldn’t find me as a child, I’d be holed up somewhere with my nose in a book. It’s what I’ve always done to relax and unwind. In other words, reading is my me-time.
Unfortunately, after the birth of my youngest son last March, I fell out of the habit. I used to read at bedtime, but with a new baby I was always too tired and just went straight to sleep. Since I was on maternity leave, I no longer had my daily commute to get my book out for, and the mental concentration required just wasn’t there. In other words, I did the unthinkable. I stopped reading.
Yes, I know. There are no excuses for this, particularly if I want to call myself a writer. It’s one of the most unforgiveable sins out there as far as that goes. And what’s even worse is how long this slump lasted – I didn’t pick up a book until December. That’s EIGHT MONTHS after my son was born. EIGHT MONTHS. It’s the longest I’ve gone without reading since I learned how to pick a book up. I couldn’t have done better if I’d tried.
However, there is a happy ending to this story. Last month, I picked up a book I’d bought while I was still pregnant – Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. It was only released eight years ago so for me, that’s not bad going. (I’m notoriously bad at getting things when they come out. It’s a failing of mine.) And wow, was it good. I really struggled to put it down, which for a 1000-page novel for someone trying to look after young children all the time is both impressive and a little inconvenient. Yesterday, though, while Cars 2 played in the background, I reached the end. It was bittersweet: there was no more of that book to read, but my whole bookcase jumped out at me, each book shouting, “Me next! Me next!” I have the smorgasboard of my own library to satiate this re-awakened thirst for reading. I can’t wait.
With this first drought-breaking book out of the way, I can promise one thing. I will never go eight months without reading again.