I was not born a reader. I believe some people are born with the love of written words in their bones. One such person is my brother, Dimeji; no one taught him to read. When I was 6, and he was 5, he said to my mum one afternoon, “Mummy, I can read now…” My mum was sceptical so she went ahead to test him, giving him different materials to read. When he successfully read them to her, she was both shocked and proud. 

How I started reading isn’t what I want to share today, but I have left the paragraph in because I like how it reads. 

Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s book series is what turned me into a reader; there are nine books in the series, six written by Enid Blyton, and the last three written by Pamela Cox. The books are equal parts preteen and teenage drama, and life lessons wrapped in one. Because it is a book series, I remember the urgency that consumed me, to know what happened to each of the characters, and the wonder of how a person created this whole other world that I could easily lose myself in. 

It’s the wonder of what each book offers that keeps me reading. This wonder presents differently with each book. Some books leave you with a sense of urgency, and you find you stay up through the night to finish reading it. Others cause you to think deeply and reflect on the world we live in and you take pauses to journal or read a section over again until you find meaning in the words presented. And there are books that you struggle to get lost in, and eventually, it is worth it when you do. The final category is the books that make it to the DNFR list – ‘Did not finish reading’ list – books that are simply not for you, and this is perfectly fine. 

I find that each book has its season, and sometimes you meet a book at the wrong time, so let it sit on the shelf till you are ready. In the same vein, not all books will be fast reads; some take longer to get through and that is okay.

Maybe this is about reading habits, but I am not entirely sure; just stay with me till the end, will you?

I love to read in motion, this is why I don’t mind Lagos traffic too much once I am not driving. My favourite place to read is the London Underground, earbuds in a seat near a car exit because my brain already knows people will walk past me at every stop and I just sit and read. When I am not in a hurry, I will take the longest route home, so I have more time on the train. Sometimes I pace, book in hand, pencil in my hair to mark lines I don’t want to forget or highlight sections I want to revisit. I am not sure why I do this, maybe the desire for motion is linked to my restless mind. 

Maybe what I am trying to say is that reading looks different for everyone; how we become readers and what keeps us reading. 

I learnt my first lessons on empathy from reading. My friend Derin explained to me once that “writing involves creating characters, placing them in situations and allowing the characters interact in these situations.” Through these interactions, I learnt that only a few things are black and white and even the ‘best’ of us are capable of doing despicable things. I’ve developed an appreciation of the different situations individuals are faced with and the subsequent decisions that are made. I find that I am less judgemental and tread with caution when dealing with people. 

I am always excited when I meet someone who has read Ayobami Adebayo’s Stay with Me. I have ready questions for the person about Yejide and Akin, the protagonists in the story: questions about their reaction to the discoveries made, what they would do if they were faced with the same situation. I still wonder if Akin really loved Yejide and if his version of love is desirable

Yejide Kilanko’s Daughters who walk this path started an important conversation between my mum, sister and I. My mum was saddened by the themes in the book and she asked if she had done a good job of protecting my sister and I. We talked about the failings of our society in protecting victims of sexual abuse and how it seems the only thing we have mastered is victim shaming. 

My views and opinions are constantly challenged by the conversations that follow the completion of a story, either internal conversations with my own thoughts or external conversations with others. 

Maybe this is about the benefits of reading but who knows at this point. 

The only thing I am sure of is that I enjoy reading, talking about books and sharing stories with people. 

Quick question, when last did you pick up a book?