My name is Katrina and I’m a book lover. So much so that I occasionally neglect my adult responsibilities to read books. Dishes pile up, the trash doesn’t get taken out, and I’m curled up on the couch completely oblivious—reading away.
I confess, I’m guilty.
Some might even say that it’s an unhealthy obsession. Here’s why I disagree: My passion for books and reading has propelled me to where I am today: a respected writer and editor, founder of my own company, with a PhD in Literature to boot. The point is, books have played a critical role in my success so far in life—and I’m just getting started!
Let me explain.
What I’ve always appreciated about books is their ability to transport me to different historical moments, distant locales, and unfamiliar cultures, gaining me entrance into the lives and perspectives of communities and people who would otherwise be completely foreign to me. Whether it’s the hardship of the American Civil War era for a family of young women whose father is off at war, a time of unbridled hope and rebellion at the dawn of the Haitian Republic, or a Nigerian immigrant’s experience of being “Black” for the first time upon settling in the U.S., books have opened my eyes to so many things that I never would have learned from the mainstream history books taught in school.
I have my parents to thank for this love of books.
They left me no option but to form a positive relationship with them, reading to me since even before I could hold my head up as a baby. Pretty soon it was me who was demanding reading time, who was begging to be brought to the library, who was enthusiastically participating in the summer read-a-thon. My dad even made me my very own “secret garden” in our backyard after I became obsessed with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel!
When it came to reading, like with everything else, I was an overachiever from a young age. I always chose the hard books to read—longer, more advanced than my age level, with complex language and mature concepts that I probably would have been forbidden access to if they were in another medium, say a movie (I loved the Nancy Drew series even though some of the stories terrified me!). I couldn’t get enough.
When it came to reading, like with everything else, I was an overachiever from a young age.
I always chose the hard books to read—longer, more advanced than my age level, with complex language and mature concepts that I probably would have been forbidden access to if they were in another medium, say a movie (I loved the Nancy Drew series even though some of the stories terrified me!). I couldn’t get enough.
Growing up, constantly reading was just part of my identity—I never analyzed it or questioned exactly what it was about books that I loved so much. What is now clear to me is that I love books because I love learning. One of my favorite genres is historical fiction because it opens historical eras up to me that I cannot access as intensely or intimately in dry history books or overdramatized movies/TV shows.
It was my combined love of books and language that led me to study Spanish literature and International Studies in college. Unlike many in my profession, mine is not a traditional training in British or American English. Instead, I spent my academic career immersed in Latinx and Latin American culture, reading powerful literature from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Hispanophone Caribbean—some of my favorites are from the Dominican Republic. It was books that opened up this culture and history for me. Reading works by Latin American greats like Borges, Poniatowska, Vargas Llosa, Belli, Neruda, and more had a similar effect on me as studying abroad did—broadening my horizons, challenging and shifting my perspective about my position in the world.
While completing my undergraduate studies and moving into my graduate studies, I realized another type of reading that I loved: research. Academic research gave me the justification I needed to comb through archives of amazing historical documents and spend days on end reading the handwritten diaries, letters, and notes of the various figures connected to the historical events I was studying. I couldn’t believe that I was actually getting paid to read!
Fast forward several years and skip over my transition from academia into entrepreneurship and you’ll still find me getting paid to read and write, two of my biggest passions. Today I have the privilege of working on diverse client projects and conducting research on a wide range of fascinating topics, becoming an expert in fields that I never would have been exposed to otherwise (do you see a pattern here?!)—from business leadership, to online gaming, to public health, vegetarianism, military spouse support, and nanochemistry, just to name a few.
The two biggest things I’ve gained from my “unhealthy” love affair with books? Savvy research skills and a broader worldview—not to mention my versatility as a writer (but I’ll leave that for another blog post).
I’m so blessed that I was able to turn my obsession with books into a business that I love and that pays the bills! And it’s all thanks to reading.
Katrina Oko-Odoi is the Founder and Chief Editor of EditingWorm, a company dedicated to academic and business editing and writing for entrepreneurs, businesses, and scholars. After years immersed in academia, Katrina channeled her passion for words into entrepreneurship, launching EditingWorm in 2012. She is a published author with a PhD in Literature from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and over 10 years of experience as a freelance editor and writer. Her latest endeavor is partnering with businesses to fulfill their blog writing needs to increase their industry prominence.
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