Until sophomore year, reading came off to me as unproductive. It was just another homework assignment that I deemed negligible on most days.
That was until I picked up George Orwell’s 1984.
The book was out of my comfort zone from the very beginning—new vocabulary, settings, concepts, and characters that all took some getting used to. But as I whittled through the chapters, it compelled me more than anything else I’d ever read. I pressed on and fell deeper in love with Orwell’s writing, which I at first thought was bleak and monotonous, but was really a pattern of thematic brilliance.
When I finished the book, I realized that the concept of dystopias was what actually interested me. I went on to read more books of the same genre, knocking down novels like Ender’s Game and Scythe, which all had one element in common: some peculiar, sociopathic protagonist. Characters of this archetype attracted me like magnets, but none more than Rodion Raskolnikov of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Watching Raskolnikov corrupt and crumble under the pressures of both the law and his own psyche, I witnessed what I consider a true literary masterpiece. I noticed, after several books, that they were all the same thing: the author’s omniscient storytelling of a criminal whose narrative ends in prosecution.
Observing all these parallels, I took it upon myself to further research criminal psychology. It was a chance for me to escape from boredom; every day used to be the same, where I would finish my homework and crawl into bed, fighting off my long-time problem of sleep paralysis. It became cyclic, and until I started reading, I had no activities to break the cycle. As I delved deeper into the mysteries of literature, the thought of books slowly replaced the thought of demons.
When I started researching, it was a process where I explored not only a subject of interest, but also myself, as I was feeling an excitement that I hadn’t felt in a long time. The authors I studied became an inspiration to me—I sought to understand their words and choices in the literature they wrote, dissecting bits and pieces of important passages. Starting with Dostoevsky, I began my own research projects, collecting books and short stories, and investing myself in each author’s history and purpose.
Especially in times of quarantine, reading has proven to be a productive hobby for me. Moving into the future, I hope to plow through lists of books and delve into other genres I take interest in.
It’s nice to have finally found something that keeps me entertained for hours on end, allowing me to explore the seemingly limitless world of literature. Reading keeps me relaxed when the thought of sleep paralysis creeps up at night. It is always there for me, and nothing else is quite as good as its company.