I haven’t always been an avid reader. I have always had great reading skills but reading books for leisure was something I resisted up until I went to college.
I was often bullied, made fun of and nicknamed from elementary school until the end of junior high school. Nerd & Geek culture wasn’t like it is now. If you were different, you were bullied and you couldn’t be more different if you did anything that fell into that kind of nerdy category like reading for fun. That was something losers did, losers who tried to be smart and being smart meant you were an outsider. It wasn’t cool and it wasn’t what being a man meant. This is, of course, the opinion of the 6 to 12-year-olds who bullied me and even amongst some of my peers. I honestly don’t remember people who were good at math getting the same chagin and those who read books for fun. It was either sports, video games, professional wrestling or cool action movies. Never books.
It’s not as if my parents didn’t try. They read to me as a smaller child and every time they went to the library they would ask me if I wanted anything. “No,” I would say and play through Super Mario World for the 50th time. When a Border opened up for the first time near our house, I believe around when I was 12ish, is when my parents got me to read some books. It wasn’t many though. In fact, it was a series by Bruce Coville that started with Aliens Ate My Homework.
I can think of so many times I was bored in the library, walking up and down the aisles. I wonder how many times I passed J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, or Douglas Adams walking those aisles. Instead of reading it I would wait for the library to get the latest copy of Nintendo Power. That’s how I discovered the Nintendo 64, through the library’s copies of that magazine.
The dilemma I faced though was that I wanted to be a writer. It’s hard to be a writer if you’re so resistant to liking books. If you look at my 6th grade yearbook, when they ask what you wanted to do when you grow up I wrote movie script writer instead of writer or novelist because writing wasn’t cool but movies were.
Then when I met who would become my best friend from 8th grade to 12th and he introduced me to hip-hop I suddenly had a new world to explore that I never had before. In my mind, writing other genres of music was about playing instruments first and lyrics second. With hip-hop, it was mostly about the words and the rhythm of words. When he would ask me to join his rap group, I suddenly had an outlet for my writing. I wasn’t very good at the performing part but I love writing lyrics. So many marble notebooks just filled with lyrics and song ideas.
I was always good at reading though. When Shakespeare was taught in class I had no struggle with the language. Spelling and vocabulary tests were what I lived for. When my 10th grade English teacher showed us Finding Forrester I immediately connected with it.
Then we had a major falling out and I was left without my main group of friends. Suddenly I hated writing, very resistant of it. I associated writing with that friendship and I had no desire to do it anymore. Without music or writing I had to think of what I was like before I met my highschool group of friends. Besides video games I would read comic books. My dad would bring home bundles of Spider-Man, Green Lantern and The Simpsons comic books for me to read. I remember this shop my mom used to hate bringing me to because the parking lot was so bad and immediately looked it up. There, I saw Green Lantern Rebirth #3 and asked the clerk about it. He found me copies of the first and second issue and that’s where my comic book habit started and my love for reading began to grow strong again.
It was when I went to a Barnes & Noble for the first time that I started transitioning from comic books to books. It all began with this beautiful leather bound copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy then at Christmas I got an equally beautiful copy of The Lord of the Rings. It’s been all about books since then.