I Haven’t Read A Book in Years

You’ll read the title of this post, raise your eyebrows and scream, “WHAT! You read books all the time, you liar!”

It’s true: I read books so much that I’m surprised I don’t drown in them. Saying that, I haven’t READ a book in forever. Doesn’t make sense? I’m not surprised.

When I “read” books, I either listen to them on audio, get my phone to read them to me (by using a thing called voiceover), or when I had my old computer, I connected it to my phone so that I could read it on the Braille display. For anyone that hasn’t guessed it, I’m blind. Noooo shit, you never would have been able to tell!

These methods work well. I can get through a book faster, either because I read faster or the speech plays it more quickly. If a typically fast-paced section is going on, I pause the book to absorb it. It’s how I work, and I like it, but at the same time, there’s something missing.

It’s been so, so long since I held a physical BOOK in my hands that I could read. So long since my fingers have run over the pages, feeling a little numb after a while because of the feel of the Braille. Even longer since I’ve sat on the sofa, or on the beach, turning pages lightning fast. Finishing one book, then going onto another.

There’s something beautiful about reading Braille: not the braille of my computer, but braille on paper. The braille that if you press a dot hard enough, it flattens and disappears, though that’s kind of like scribbling out a letter. The braille that fades with time, but that you can still feel; the writing that makes your hand cramp as you finish that last sentence. Only blind people will get this, because a lot of sighted people’s fingers aren’t sensitive enough to pick up on any individual dot, and that’s not because you’ve got anything wrong. It’s just that I was trained, as well as a lot of people were, to have sensitive fingers so that I could read.

Braille books are huge. When I say huge, I mean huge; the book ITSELF is larger, but it doesn’t just come in one book. Oh, no; the Harry Potter books came in 13 volumes (not that I read them in Braille, but this is just what I’ve been told) and the Lord of the Rings ones are apparently so monstrously large that they clutter up the house. I was too scared to get them because I was intimidated by them? They’re heavy too, of course – you can’t carry around 6 volumes of Braille, which is the amount of volumes I usually read when I got my books, without staggering. Some books are smaller, and it really depends on who makes them.

When I was younger, I got my books from the RNIB library. Maybe it’s cruel to say this, but their selection for books – especially young adult books – is… Not great. I get catalogues of books that have been made into Braille and I see ones from three years ago. Though there are recent ones, there aren’t many.

I understand, and I guess it’s unfair of me to criticise them. It takes money and time to print the books into Braille, so no wonder their selection isn’t “up to date”. What they do have is good, just not good enough for ME. It was when I was about 10, 11 and 12, but not now when I consume books like they’re food. I used to borrow them, and so I had to finish them within a select time, and I couldn’t do that now. What with stress and A-Levels, it would make it worse if I felt like I had to finish a book.

Reading – ACTUALLY reading – books gave me a great vocabulary, so I’m very grateful for that. However, the only Braille things I’ve properly read within the last two years are exam papers, Maths text books, some on Diagrams, signs and lifts. That’s not exactly thrilling stuff. The last book I read in Braille was She Is Not Invisible, and that was because I REALLY wanted to. Rcving it was almost a novelty, because I hadn’t borrowed anything for the RNIB library in what felt like an age. Um, more like 2 years… (I tend to exaggerate)

I miss reading, the feel of shoving a volume back in its bag and hauling out another one. Some of my best memories involve getting books, leaping up and down in my cringy 12-year-old way and getting way too over-excited and then dropping them on my foot. What can I Say – I was eager. Then again, 11-year-old me diving on 4 bags of books was a bit extreme…

A lot of people read in different ways. I almost envy people with sight, who can read print, because you can just walk into a bookshop and buy a book. Without asking, “Is this availible in Braille? When will it be? When can you get it to me – has someone already ordered it?” You could just get it out on the train without having to lug around a massive BAG of books. I suppose, though, that there can be downsides; deaf people can’t listen to radio shows or audio-based things, so I’ll always be grateful for my ears.

I miss reading. Perhaps I’ll get back into ordering books again, once I’m more relaxed. Maybe it’ll HELP me to relax.

I wanted to show you a little part of my world, just for a bit. I read Braille, always have done and always will. Print’s fascinating to me, the way it probably looks like art on a page, but that’s a discussion for another lifetime.

Reading’s something I always take for granted. Some people CAN’t read or don’t have access to books, so for now, I’ll carry on reading how I read.

From Elm πŸ™‚
P.S: If you’ve got any questions about Braille or anything, really, then you can email me at gemmabaristol@yahoo.co.uk. I’m happy to talk about it, and sorry for ranting strangely about my obsession with books (again)!

43 thoughts on “I Haven’t Read A Book in Years

  1. ALL of the YES! I grew up and went to school at a time when braille books were so limited (or widely circulated) that I could only ever get them on time if I yelled and screamed for them… or got them scanned into a computer, edited, and embossed on a braille printer for me. There is something entirely amazing about being able to listen to an audiobook, reading on a braille display (SO portable!), or using a screen reader… but braille books themselves (the paper, binding?)… there’s nothing like it. I don’t think I have any leisure books in braille, but I do have some music books, cookbooks, etc., so if I ever need to reach for some nostalgia, I do have some at the ready πŸ™‚

    • That’s so wonderful! I know what you mean – reading the dots is so much better than anything else. I dido’t realise it was so much worse for you though – it’s progressed a lot since, I think!
      I was wondering – what kind of cookery books do you have? I’m 16 very I’m just so worried that I won’t be able to cook for myself.

      • Over the years I have picked up or been given a handful of Braille cookbooks. I like using the Braille, but sometimes cooking is messy and I have had more than one page get flour or salt or other stuff on it. πŸ™‚ cooking is totally doable as a blind person. If you want tips or pointers, shoot me a message anytime.

  2. This is such an interesting post! It’s something I don’t know anything about, so it was fascinating reading your point of view. I can’t imagine not being able to read physical books, because the feel of a book is so comforting to me. But I rarely listen to books, because I get distracted too easily, so I’m sure you can’t imagine being like me! I wonder if this is something that’s going to be fixed, or if everything’s going to keep moving towards being online? It could just get worse, not better

    • There’s this movement that says Braille should now be made obselete, because it’s all online with screen readers. But I think that’s so awful because if you can’t read Braille, you can’t READ. I don’t think they’ll get a following though because it’s just so ridiculous.
      I hope it gets fixed. I just want to be able to read books, properly READ them, whenever I want. It’s how life works though, and there are plenty of people who’ve never been able to read Braille because of a lack of education in other countries.
      I’m really glad you liked it!

  3. It was interesting learning about this part of your life Elm and I agree with you. I’ve been reading books on my phone for so long that it’s been forever and a half since I picked up the physical copy of a book! I’m going to change that though because my parents gave me a Β£25 book voucher on my birthday which I’m hoping to spend ASAP.

  4. I take reading books for granted, but I really shouldn’t. I never knew it was such a struggle to actually READ books when you’re blind. I really think that someone should do something about publishing more Braille books in the future! It was really interesting to see your point of view on reading! I find that I could not FOREVER listen to audiobooks. Whilst audiobooks are fun, physical books feel so much better in the hand, but not one they’re really heavy!! AMAZING post!

    Thanks for stopping by at Train Of Thought @ My Bookish Life

  5. aww i hate listening to audio books, ive done it a few times and they just bored me, and you couldnt really get into the book — so to have to listen to them because there aren’t enough braille books out there must suck. OPEN A BUSINESS WHERE YOU PUBLISH THE MOST DESIRABLE BOOKS IN BRAILLE. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

  6. This was such an interesting blog post to read and really made me appreciate my sight. Reading Braille looks so difficult and it’s crazy to think of so many ways to read book πŸ™‚

  7. Same!!! I don’t know when the last time was I picked up an actual braille book for something other than school. I love my audio books, but there’s just something about actually “reading” a physical book. I’m being forced to really “read” books right now because I have to provide specific quotes for MLA citations for my English class, but I’m reading those on my Braille Sense because I wanted to read something recent and couldn’t find it in a hard copy.

      • We have a library, but they’ve started moving everything over to their website to be downloaded for braille displays too… I get most of mine through National Braille Press, and basically with that you pick from a catalog and then they’re your’s. But they always have last year’s best sellers, which I’ve always read already by the time I get the catalog!

      • YAH, that’s the same with RNIB! I miss real books, having them in my hands 😦 Oh well! I’ll find one I haven’t read.

  8. Omg I feel like that too! Well, actually I haven’t been reading a lot lately, specially with school work and stuff like that. But I’ll try to find a way to have time to read more!!
    And I totally agree, reading can suck when you’re not interested in what you’re reading, it really sucks! Hope you find the right book! Also, hope it’s available in braille!! (cause dude, i was wondering, how can she read blogs? that’s something that was in my head for a while but i was kinda scared to ask, don’t hate me please!)
    I love this post, so relatable!!!!! P.S. I actually read this post this morning in school cause one of my teachers didn’t come and we could use laptops! Bad thing was I couldn’t log in to comment or like *cries* LOL I’mma shut up!

    • AWWW ANA (haarg on does your name have one n or two) you are my favourite! Also, PLEASE don’t worry about being scared – you can always email me if you’re too scared to ask a question on here. I hope I can find the right book, too! πŸ™‚ Thanks sooo much for commenting, and ooooh rebel, reading my post in school! πŸ˜›

      • LOL yeah it has just one actually but I always use two like, “virtually” idk, but don’t worry!! And thank you, that makes me feel better! And I mean, it’s not that I was scared of asking here on your blog, I was just kiiinnda scared of simply asking, doesn’t matter where. LOL but seriously, thanks!!!
        And no problem, thank you so much for posting this, I related a LOT! And yeah, I’m such a #Rebel πŸ˜›

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