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A Pep Talk from Samira Ahmed!


July 24, 2020

Hey Reading Rushers!

I love a challenge.

I’ma Type A Aries *and* the first born daughter Indian immigrants so when I say I love a challenge I mean it. When quarantine began in March, besides being worried for all those who were sick and feeling very grateful for my good health and privilege, I made plans. I knew the safest thing I could do for my city and myself was to stay home and to me that meant three things: baking, reading, and writing. So how’d that work out? Well…the baking part turned out awesome! The other two, not so much. I was distracted, anxious and every time I picked up a book, I had a hard time focusing. I started and DNF’d a lot of books. These were all books that were on my TBR. Books I wanted to read, but I couldn’t find the connection to the story—any story—that would keep me going beyond the first 25 or 50 pages.That spark, that aha moment, that curiosity that makes me want to dive headlong into the world of the book and not come up for air until the last page. I was positively listless. I wanted to change that.

Remember when I said I love a challenge? I do, but one thing I don’t always love is stepping out of my comfort zone. That’s the challenge I gave myself.

Since nothing on my TBR or the 20 or so new novels I bought (support your local indie if you can!) were enticing me, I decide to do the opposite of what I’d been trying to do. I read fiction almost exclusively. And I was trying to force myself to read the types of stories I’m usually drawn to. Why not force myself to read something I avoided? For me, I associate nonfiction with research--which is important! Nonfiction was like an all-kale smoothie with a shot of wheat grass but fiction was a delectable rose cardamom cake. Sometimes, though, when you eat your vegetables you realize they’re actually delicious.

I picked up Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe--a journalist I’d heard interviewed on a podcast. And reader, that was my ticket back to reading. This nonfiction book that read like the best fiction—riveting characters in a smartly plotted page turner—jump-started the part of my brain that was in a fog. I was smitten with reading again. I had a(re)new(ed) crush. And what do you want to in the first throes of young love? Make out ALL THE TIME. And by make out, I mean read. So I scoured my shelves, my leaning Tower of Pisa-sized TBR and made a new mini get-out-of-my-reading-slump pile of books. Just 5 books to read during quarantine. A small challenge, sure. But a month earlier I was wondering if I’d even be able to finish a single book for fun. I’ve now hit 16 books since lockdown began in March. I’m a bit of a slow reader--especially when I’m on writing deadline--and my reading goal for 2020 was 25 books, about 2 a month. I just hit 23 yesterday and I have 5 more months of enchanting reading days ahead.

If you find yourself in a slump (or even if you’re not), try pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Shop your own shelves for that backlist title you’ve forgotten. Search for books inspired by other media you consume. Challenge yourself to read diversely--consider one book by a BIPOC author for every book by a white author. Most importantly, carve out some time every day to read without distraction. After all, the object of your affection deserves a little undivided attention.

Happy reading!

You can check out Samira's books here and her Instagram and Twitter!