Finding Myself in Books

Wildcat editor Amber Kim reflects on a reading journey that began with the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.


Amber Kim

Wildcat editor Amber Kim surrounded by scenes and settings from literature. Kim rediscovered her love of reading during quarantine.

Growing up, stories about magical creatures and classic fairy tales infatuated me; they introduced me to new perspectives through the lives of their fictional characters. From timeless tales of princes saving damsels in distress to magical worlds of wizards and dragons, I loved it all. 

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve daydreamed about my favorite book’s stories, but when I transitioned from elementary school to Brea Junior High School, my taste in books transitioned as well. I graduated from only reading middle-grade fantasy novels to reading a wider range of genres including young adult, contemporary, adult fiction, classics, sci-fi, and historical fiction. At the junior high, books became intertwined in every facet of my life.

But changed when I entered Brea Olinda High School. Ninth grade was a jarring shift from middle school — more work, more rigorous classes, far less time to indulge in hobbies.

For the first two years of high school, I only read books that were assigned by my English teachers and I enjoyed only two: Great Expectations in ninth grade, and The Picture of Dorian Gray in tenth. 

Then, at the start of quarantine in March 2020, I was overjoyed by the fact that I could attend all of my classes via Zoom from my own home. But after a few weeks, I grew tired of the routines and my eyes became dry from constantly looking at a screen. There was nothing, it seemed then, that couple help me relieve the bottled-up stress.

But then I found Booktok. Booktok is a community of book lovers on TikTok that consists of recommendation videos on new book releases; profiles of underrated authors; and productions on popular book series. My love for literature was once again ignited. 

To combat the mundanity of online learning, I began purchasing books on Kindle. I started off my new book journey with Five Feet Apart, We Were Liars, Caraval, and Six of Crows. I wasn’t expecting much, I just wanted to be entertained.

During summer vacation, I read at least one book per day. When I read, my surroundings blurred and the lines of ink etched onto the paper painted pictures that erupted to life in my imagination. 

“Books, she found, are a way to live a thousand lives — or to find strength in a very long one,” said V.E. Schwab in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. 

Truly, books took me to places that I could never have fathomed before, from the Victorian slums of Ketterdam in Six of Crows, to the ethereal courtyards of Terrasen in Throne of Glass. Like Roald Dahl said in Matilda, “the books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.”

Books were once again my escape — from the pandemic, from the stress of SAT prep, from being confined to my home 24-hours a day. I read as a tool to slip away from everything that was going on in the world.

To me, books are magic portals (or “uniquely portable magic,” to author Stephen King) that send me on adventures with Frodo across Middle Earth, and experience “great expectations” with Pip and Estella.

Like any other coming-of-age story, my story with books wasn’t always smooth sailing, but quarantine gave me an opportunity to revive my passion for reading and to open up many new worlds to explore.