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  • Writer's pictureJacob Stehman

The blog of an author who hates to read

Ok, so maybe the title of this blog is a little misleading. For that, I apologize but say welcome to 2024! However, the actual substance of the title is not all that wrong. When I said before that I could never imagine being called a writer, this particular fact that I struggle to read is the main reason why. Sure, I enjoy a good book. Nothing beats escaping the constant chaos of the news, sports (in my case bad teams), and kids' shows except Bluey. I have even found enjoyment in audiobooks. Maybe it is not quite like sitting in silence, which is needed for a parent of two, but it is more portable and allows me to catch up on stories while I travel for my day job.


No, I believe the real reason I struggle to read is that I can never quite find a story that allows

me to commit to it. Heck, even Harry Potter had me closing it up after three books, and it wasn’t until the movies that I watched it all play out.


The why behind that has always fascinated me. Could it be because I couldn’t read when I was young? Or is it some type of adult ADHD that I am just beginning to realize I have more than I want to admit? Maybe it’s because I’m not particularly eager to read. Perhaps I just don’t have the time? What I did realize, as I was posed the question about what my next blog would be, is that I am different. While other authors will post about what they are reading and the future summer list they have ready, I merely float into space. I sift through Goodreads and Amazon for something that might interest me and keep my attention throughout the very few quiet hours I get in a week.


So, with that, I have decided to invite my readers to join me in something a little different for the summer blog—no words about hot books for vacation or upcoming spicy deals. Instead, I hope you enjoy my journey of thought, as I dive into a blog post about an author who truly hates to read.


Early Reading Struggles

Becoming a parent has made me realize how difficult and frustrating I must have been as a

child. While I believe I was well-behaved when I was young, I can now admit I was extremely

lazy. I know my parents tried. I remember very vividly the yells of my dad to get up and walk as I kicked my younger brother out of the stroller when I felt “tired”. For those who know me, this should not come as a surprise. And if we are being honest from the picture below, I could have probably used a few extra steps along the way. However, this is not a blog about that. Instead, it’s how that laziness seeped into my studies, and how it finally landed me in a special reading class during elementary school that has shaped my struggles with books today.


We all know being a kid should be the greatest time of your life. For me, it was. Yet, some moments always stick with you. One of those moments came when I was in third grade. The class was doing a quick popcorn reading (I think we all hated this), and the popcorn finally landed on me. I know the Department of Education says third grade is not too late to read, but at that moment, it became very clear that something was amiss. You see, I had been able to get away with it up to this point. I had been able to hide that I simply had no idea what was on the paper in front of me. I followed along with my parents when they read to me at night. Memorized words that were spoken to me and even pretended to read in groups during school. To that point, it had worked. But after a few popcorn readings, and a very involved teacher, the jig was finally up.


I probably never told my parents this, but I do remember the conversation around this particular program. Yes, most of it is fuzzy, but one point has stuck out in my head ever since I was young. It was my mom, who along with my dad had tried to sit down every night and read Doctor Seuss books with me, pulling my younger self aside and sitting me down. She told me that I would be going to a different class in the middle of the day. She explained that I wasn’t in trouble, and it was simply to help me out. Teachers' meetings followed, and I can still to this day picture the class I had to sit in. The walls with paper books covering them and the old carpet they would bring you over to read on are still fresh in my mind.


After that, it gets fuzzy again. I can’t remember how long I was actually in the class, and it was not until one day on the playground that I could piece together another moment of that year. We all know kids can be cruel. I regret lots of things I said when I was young. This moment was just an example of that, as a game of kickball quickly developed into an insult that I believe shaped the way I see reading even today.


Now, as the picture below shows, I was not the skinniest kid at Conrad Weiser East Elementary, and I think we all know what happens to kids who look like me. However, I was lucky that I had some great friends. I played a lot of sports and typically I was smart enough to stay off everyone’s radar. Yet, on that particular day, a game of kickball got heated. Anyone who has been on the blacktop knows that this is possible. A fair versus foul call could tip the game one way or another before the bell rings. And, unfortunately for me, no matter how hard I tried, I finally found myself in the middle of one of these intense arguments. Just two boys screaming over where the ball may or may not have landed after it was kicked.



That argument, and the final insult thrown my way, is what I believe changed my thought

process on reading forever. I know it was just kids fighting and I hold no ill will toward the

individual who said it. However, in that moment, in front of all of our friends, it hurt. It hurt not just because everyone laughed, but because I thought it was true. I hated myself at that very moment because I couldn’t read like everyone else. I felt dumb. I felt stupid and I felt

embarrassed.


So, I did what any young kid does when he is embarrassed, I got angry. I cursed at him and

pretended like it didn’t matter to me. But, as we can all relate to, it did and I would spend the

rest of that year making sure that he, nor anyone else, would ever be able to make that insult

again.


I read. I began to read and take that class seriously. Lazy Jake was officially gone during that time, and I remember very clearly reading everything I could get my hands on. And within a year, I was out of the program. I could read! Well, maybe not read novels at the time but I had reached my grade level and I no longer had to leave class in the middle of the day.


Thus, I can thank my old friend for giving me the focus I needed. That focus, though, came with a cost. This brings me to why I believe I struggle to read. Because for me, reading was not made out to be fun. This was no fault of my parents, they tried everything. This was no fault of my teachers, they also tried. This was also no fault to the kid who made fun of me, we were young and kids say the darndest things. Reading for me was ruined by only one person, me. My insecurities about who I was and the want to fit in drove me to make something that was supposed to be fun into a chore. An activity that most folks use to get sucked into new worlds and diverse relationships has always eluded me. Instead, when I pick up a book, I feel anxious. I feel like I need to finish it fast and it becomes more a requirement than leisurely enjoyment.


Believe me when I say I have tried everything to fix this. In high school, I tried to binge the new series everyone had. When that didn’t work, I moved to sports books and even jumped into war books that I thought would keep me interested. The fantasy genre was a college adventure that fell flat after I gave up on the Lord of the Rings books for the movies. Even reading for class gave me struggles. I used good old spark notes for almost every assignment I had. Getting a full-time job and trying to read professional books didn’t cut it, and by the age of twenty-three, I just quit trying.


As the pandemic hit though, life began to change. The want to read started to build once more and as I mentioned in my first blog I dove back into the bookshelves. Today I think it frustrates me even more. Friends, family, and colleagues constantly speak of books or series they love. My wife is constantly firing through audiobooks faster than my kids and a sleeve of cookies. But I have stayed the same. Hopelessly wandering through a sea of genres and stories that I cannot stay interested in.


So now, hopefully, you know why I will not be posting my favorite summer reads. You know why I will not be posting about the books I enjoy or the authors I love. Because for me, as much as I love writing them, I hate just as much reading them. That little kid from the playground always seems to pop up with something to prove. Making a hobby that is supposed to be relaxing, a stress-filled task that always leaves me wanting to walk away.


Thank you and future

Again, I want to thank all of you for your amazing response to my novel, A Battle for Fire. The feedback I have received has been amazing, and if you truly enjoyed the book feel free to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Moving forward, I will have some big news in August that I am excited to share about an upcoming project. Until then, have a wonderful hot reads summer!


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