Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

I’m most myself when I’m reading

By YANA MULANI | March 12, 2024

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ARUSA MALIK / DESIGN AND LAYOUT EDITOR

Mulani explains how her relationship with reading has evolved throughout the years.

When I was younger, I was a voracious reader — that’s the word my mum used to describe me. I read on the breakfast table, on the way to school, during break and lunch time, in between classes, during classes, at the dinner table and under the covers at night. I was always reading. I actually got prescribed glasses because I would wake up before the sun had risen and read in the dark. 

This lasted until I was about 15, which was when school picked up. Between the ages of 15-18, I could count on two hands the number of books I read that weren’t for academic purposes. For me, reading is more than a hobby — it’s something I’m constantly doing, and I’m doing it more than I’m not. So, during this period, when I wasn’t doing it, I found myself increasingly anxious. Could this have had something to do with being a teenager in high school? Probably. But it was also that I had lost my coping mechanism, my form of escapism, and, honestly, the thing that made me bone-deep content. 

It was only when I came to Hopkins that I picked up reading again. I’d finished my A-Levels, and I wasn’t applying to universities anymore; I was in a new country with new people, and my parents were only accessible before 2 p.m. EST. I was almost vibrating with the need to pick up a book. 

While I don’t remember what book I read first, I do recall that it slowly started to take over my life. I started to read everywhere, again: in the line in Brody Cafe, when I was five minutes early to my French class and in the reading room when I should have been studying. It was exhilarating to rediscover this side of myself.

One thing I struggled with was deciding on types of books. My most energetic reading phase was in my pre-teens, and I remember loving murder mysteries, teenage romances and young adult fantasies. When I picked some of these up at 18, I had to reckon with the fact that they weren’t quite what I was looking for anymore. In order to preserve my fond memories, I turned to classic literature. 

I found a new love for reading in classics. While they do require more of my attention than the My Sister the Vampire series, most times, they give me the same butterflies in my stomach. The feeling of having found a book that seemed like it was written perfectly for me, just for my eyes, just for my perceptions, is one that I had deeply missed.

For a while, I devoured a list of classics that I had missed out on. But I found that I did miss the modern romances, the magical worlds of fantasy novels and the thrilling suspense of murder mysteries. After all, those were the genres that initially piqued my interest all those years ago.

Last year, I returned to some of these genres: I read A Court of Thorns and Roses, probably ten TikTok-recommended romances and topped it all off by rereading a few of my beloved Agatha Christie novels. I’ve since decided that I’ve given them a fair shot, but the TikTok romance books just aren’t for me. For fantasy novels, I think they’re fun and gripping, but perhaps not much more than that. The Agatha Christies were brilliant — as always. 

This is not to say that I’m sticking to classic literature for the rest of my life. Definitely not: I’m not even sticking to classic literature right now. It’s just to say that when you take a break from an activity, you need to figure out where you stand with it when you return. 

I’m still trying to figure out the kinds of books that the me of today enjoys. I’m giving myself space to try new books and return to old ones. I recently reread the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, and it’s still absolutely amazing! Alongside that, however, I’m laughing out loud at Pip from Great Expectations and following Carrie Soto’s journey in Carrie Soto is Back.

Regardless of what it is that I’m reading, I am a better person when I am reading. I am more myself.

Now, I don’t remember the last time that I went to bed without reading at least a of couple pages — even when it’s 3 a.m. and I’m returning from a long night of laying out the print paper at the Gatehouse. This time that I have to myself and my book at the end of the day is sacred. I’m not willing to lose it again.

Yana Mulani is a junior from Dubai, U.A.E. majoring in Economics, International Studies and English. She is an Editor-in-Chief for The News-Letter.


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