Not too long ago, I overheard a student speaking with a fellow English professor; he said he knew he was meant to be an English major because he could "read a book--any book--in three days or less." I had to stifle a laugh when I saw he was being serious. It is interesting to me that students have these misconceptions that to be able to study English successfully, one simply needs to be able to read fast. Thinking about that misconception started the spinning of my metaphorical hamster wheel, and I began thinking about being a reader in general, specifically about how many of us tend to live under the misconception that reading fast and reading a lot is all it takes to be a reader. Unfortunately, we tend to forget to ask the important questions like, "Do you interact with the books?" or "What about reading is important?" or "What changed after you read that?"
Lately, I haven't had time to read as much as I would like to. I barely made it through Something Wicked This Way Comes in time for an evening book group discussion on it. Now that I've finished that, though, I've only been able to make it through the first three chapters of the next book that was on my reading list. When life moves too fast, my reading time suffers. I worried that not reading enough would somehow make me less of a reader. I worried that I couldn't claim to be a reader if I didn't have time to read.
Yet when I do talk or write about books, a passion blooms inside me and leaves me feeling satisfied yet more open to possibilities. Reading books fulfills me yet pushes me to start new journeys. There is a certain inspiration borne from reading that I can't duplicate in any other activity, and that is what makes me a reader.
So I don't count how many books I read in a week, a month, or a year. I don't care if the person next to me is reading faster than I am (unless that person is reading out loud and spoiling the ending for me). What I care about is that I spend quality reading time with my books. I want to know that what I am reading is making a difference in how I think about language or relationships or authors or maybe even life. I want to know that when I do have the time to curl up with a book, I breathe in the 'joie de lire' that comes with it.
What makes you a reader?