How a Portugese novel turned me into a reader

18 December 2017

How a Portugese novel turned me into a reader

Image credit: Stocksnap (Pixabay) – CC0

My whole life, I’ve wanted to be that girl. The girl who could sit in a library and not be kicked out for laughing too loud. The girl who could read a book for more than five minutes and not zone out or fall asleep. The irony is that I love to write; and you’d think that someone who likes to put words together and wants to live and breathe the art of writing would enjoy reading a book.

When people have asked me in the past what it is I want to do with my life, I would say, “I’d like to be a writer.” Their response was usually, “Oh, so you like reading?” It always felt odd saying no.

But this all changed when I read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. My brother told me it was a book everyone should read. Admittedly, I was quite surprised, because he is not a reader. I thought if my brother swears by it, I should give it a look.

I was 18 when I read the first chapter of The Alchemist. I felt proud and accomplished that I had finally found the motivation to read the book – or any book for that matter. But, within the first few pages, I thought about what I was going to make for dinner that night. After finishing the chapter, I realised I wasn’t really reading but scanning through a bunch of words while thinking about the many things on my mind.

It led me to the thought that maybe I was forcing myself to read a book that did not interest me. Maybe it was the idea of reading that appealed to me, not actually reading?

You will be transformed by what you read. — Deepak Chopra

Two years later, I was sitting on a train writing something. As I wrote, I found myself lost for words, literally. My vocabulary was restricting my ability to communicate my thoughts. That same night, while travelling on a bus, I took The Alchemist out of my bag and started reading it again. After reading a whole chapter and not losing concentration or thinking about food, I felt that I had accomplished what it meant to be a reader.

I realised there was a process that needed to occur. Loving something has a lot to do with understanding what attracts you to it. My love of the idea of reading led me to attempt to read The Alchemist, which in turn immersed me in the story of the protagonist’s journey of discovering his purpose. The story resonated with me and opened me to a world of words.

You don’t fall in love with every person you meet, but that does not mean you stop talking to people. Similarly, you will not love every book you pick up, but that does not mean you should not read. You just need to find what it is in the story you can connect with.

This is not something that can be forced. Patience is essential. I understood that 18 year-old me did not enjoy reading The Alchemist, because I was not in the right mindset. I was aware of my dreams, but I was not ready to chase after them. My experience of reading The Alchemist made me realise that there is a right time for everything, and just because I don’t immediately love something, does not mean I won’t in the future.