Our Reading Lives

Books and Reading Are Two Different Hobbies

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

I love books. Some might even say I’m obsessed with them. I have a modest collection of my own, but mostly I borrow from the library and collect ebook review copies. I run a book blog with about a dozen other reviewers, and I’ve been doing it for more than a decade. I was a bookseller for ten years, then an English teacher and aspiring school librarian, and now an editor for a bookish website. I procrastinate by scrolling BookTok and any given conversation will lead back to the literary. My life is built on a foundation of books. But reading? Mm…I could take it or leave it.

This is a ridiculous statement, I know. And I do like reading! In theory. I do read, of course. I read about 100 books a year, which I know is a big number by normal standards. But I read because I make myself read. When I’m doing it, I enjoy it. My life is better when I’m reading regularly. But I don’t naturally pick up a book when I want to entertain myself. I watch YouTube or baking reality shows. Reading often feels like a chore.

I have big plans for reading. I accept all those ARCs because I’m determined that I’m going to get through them this time. I make reading plans. Last year, I decided to break up with 3-star books to rekindle my love of reading. (Needless to say, it didn’t stick.) There are thousands of books I’m excited to read. I make lists upon lists and put library books on hold. Then, once they’re in my hand, they seem a lot less exciting.

Right now, I’m in the middle of a book that I’m sure will be a 5-star read. It’s moving and heartwarming, but also tackles difficult subjects. It’s whimsical while still being grounded. The characters are compelling. While reading it, I thought, “Wow! This is what reading is all about!” I fell into it and was absorbed by the story in a way I rarely am — like I forgot I was reading at all, losing time inside the story.

I’ve been halfway through that book for almost two weeks now. I haven’t read it since then. When I do, I’ll love it. But I can’t seem to convince myself to.

When I was a kid, I loved reading. That’s what sparked my love of books, of course. I would read endlessly — except, I also loved the internet, and I’d be on the computer until I was kicked off. So maybe this goes back further than I imagined. Maybe I read so voraciously when I was young because I had so few options of things to entertain myself, especially as a perpetually anxious kid.

I’m not particularly distressed by this. I have to convince myself to do a lot of things that I enjoy. Traveling? I absolutely hate the logistics of it. It’s so stressful. But once I’m actually at the location with my family and friends, I’ll have a great time. Ask me the morning of, though, and I’d always elect to stay home. I have to force myself to go out and see people, though I’m extremely talkative and almost always end up enjoying myself.

Reading falls into this category for me. It’s something that adds value to my life, that makes me happier and more fulfilled overall, but that it’s hard to motivate myself to do in the moment. TikTok is always going to be shinier and easier than processing a book, for me. But it’s worth the effort.

Books, though? Books are my favorite hobby. They require nothing from me. I can stare contentedly at them and fantasize about an incredible library. I can design reading futures for myself without flipping a single page. I can participate in the bookish online community even if I’ve been in a reading slump for weeks (or months, or years). Books are always there for me, and being bookish continues to be one of my defining traits.

If you love books but struggle to read, here’s my formal invitation letting you know you’re welcome in the bookish community. And books are generous that way: they don’t mind if your TBR plans fall apart or whether you read a book a day. They’ll still be there for you, whenever the reading mood strikes.