a reader lives one thousand lives

one thousand livesWhen I was in high school our homeroom met for about ten minutes and the students were divided up the same every year. We were in alphabetic order, so I always had the same person sitting in front of me, next time, behind me…it never changed.

There was a kid who sat in front of me who always asked me how many books I had read that day, or that week. He especially loves Monday’s because he would get to ask me how many books I read over the weekend. Sometimes it was only two, sometimes four. Once I was so excited to tell him I had read seven books between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

I think I started seeing it as a challenge. “I want to be able to tell him I read more.”

Near the end of our senior year, I finally had the guts to ask him why it intrigued him so much. Part of me was so afraid I’d find he had been making fun of me for four years, but the other part of me–the stronger part–wondered if it was just something to talk about. But his answer always stays with me.

“I’m such a slow reader. It amazes me that you can read so fast, and so many books at the same time, and soak up all those stories. I wish I could do that.”

I was floored.

Part of me felt proud. My older sister and I had times each other to see how long it took us each to read a page of a book since I was about eight. The other part of me wondered if he had a right to be amazed. Because I got to thinking, and asking myself: was I really soaking up all the stories?

Some of them, yes. I always go back to my favorites. But some of them were just fillers. Books to read to pass the time. Those books I couldn’t really remember.

Suddenly I began to panic. I’ve been reading WRONG. I should be slow…and steady…because that’s the true winner, right?

Well, I listened for a millisecond or so before I pulled out my book and started pushing through it. I wanted to finish it. To add it to my list. My ever-growing list.

Now that time and life have forced me to slow down, I’ve learned that I don’t mind having a shorter list. I know there are so many books out there, and truth be told– time and mortality will keep me from reading all the books that I’d probably enjoy.

Yes, that makes me sad. But I’ve come to terms with it.

Quantity isn’t quality. That’s how the saying goes, right? I’ve slowed down to picking new books with precision, and made sure to revisit books that I might have sped through. I revisit the timeless tales that are my favorites, and balance them with the new and exciting books I find on various shelves.

But I’m not reading for anyone else.

I’m not reading to brag about how many books I finished. I’m not reading to keep up with the literary crowd. I’m not reading to make a name for myself.

I’m reading to live one thousand lives. I’m reading to enjoy the beautiful words so many authors toiled over. I’m reading to go on countless adventures. I’m reading to learn lessons that can’t be lost in the pages.

I’m reading to, well, live.

“A reader lives one thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” -George R.R. Martin

If nothing else, I will read one thousand books before I die. Just so I can live up to this quote.

Do you have a numbered list of all the books you’ve read?

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “a reader lives one thousand lives

  1. starkcontrastediting says:

    This is amazing and exactly how I feel. I just finished a book this weekend, and I had to really take the time to process it. The character died at the end, and I legitimately mourned for him. But at the end of the day, I was really thankful he shared his life with me. Characters and stories are so real, which is why I love doing what I do. Thanks for sharing this, Emily!

    Like

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