Why Books And Libraries Can Be Terrifying Places

Every time I walk into my local library to pick up some recycling bags, I feel like I’m entering a world that doesn’t want me there. Or is it that I don’t want to be there?

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For me, libraries can be terrifying places. Just like picking up a book and opening it can be a terrifying prospect. As an author and writer, you’d think that both would be something I’d get a lot of pleasure from.

Why I’m terrified of libraries and books?

Dyslexia – that’s the answer. As somebody who is dyslexic, reading and writing are two things I have always found difficult. When I enter the library and am faced with all those books that can introduce me to new characters and transport me to different worlds, I feel like a big door is being slammed shut right in front of me. Why? Because I know that I would find it difficult reading many of the books on the shelves.

How does being dyslexic affect me?

Being dyslexic affects me in many different ways. For example, I often find myself struggling to know what a word or its meaning is. Even when I try saying the sounds the letters make as they appear in a word, it doesn’t always come to me. Struggling on a word in the middle of a sentence can literally stop me on my reading track and, sometimes, make me feel a failure. It’s as if the word is some sort of barrier preventing me from carrying on reading.

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Occasionally, when I pick up a book, I find myself coming across too many words that I don’t understand. They can be the simplest of words, yet my brain can not work out what the word actually is.

If I have to go back to the beginning of a page or chapter because I don’t understand the plot or what’s going on, I will almost certainly give up on the book. I may have another go, but more often than not I will never pick up that book again.

It’s not only about reading

When it comes to writing, one of the strangest things dyslexia does to me is not putting certain letters in the correct order. I seem to struggle if a word has both an ‘A’ and ‘C’ in it. For example, I can write the word ‘because’ in a blog post lots of times, yet Grammarly will underline every ‘because’ I’ve written because I’ve incorrectly spelt it. It’s always the ‘A’ and ‘C’ in the wrong order. I have trouble with other words where ‘A’ and ‘C’ follow each other too.

Not all is lost

I’m pleased to say that I don’t have problems reading all the books on my ‘TBR’ pile. I seem to go through peaks and dips with them. Recently, after reading a book review by author and blogger Teri Polen, I read ‘Call Drops‘ by John F. Leonard.

Not only did I get pulled into the story quickly, but I also whizzed through it in two sittings. Maybe it was the way the book had been written, but I didn’t struggle with any of it. It was the first book I’d read from start to finish in a while. Of course, I also left reviews on Goodreads and Amazon for it.

Am I reading another book?

You bet. I’m currently reading, and enjoying, The Jack Lockwood Diaries by Geoffrey David West.

A library was the setting for a piece of flash fiction from my first collection of short stories, Glimpses. Set in the future, it’s a story about a teacher who takes her pupils to a library where she reveals the truth behind the disappearance of trees.

Story #28: The Library – by Hugh W. Roberts

“And this is the library.”
The students stood open-mouthed.
“So, these are books?”
“Yes, these are books, Trudy.”
“How many are there, Mrs Millar?” inquired Tommy.
“Nobody has ever counted, but we think several million,” replied the teacher as she nodded slowly. “And paper is what every one of these books has in common.”
“So, this is the main reason why all the trees disappeared from Planet Earth?” asked Trudy.
Mrs Millar continued to nod her head while admiring the books.
“Yes, and each and every one of the authors that was alive when the last of the trees disappeared, was put to death for the crime they committed,” smiled the teacher.

Click here to buy Glimpses.

Happy endings

I allowed dyslexia to suppress my love of writing for far too long. In February 2014, when I published my first blog post, I felt like I had conquered it. Maybe I can do the same with reading books and visiting my local library?

I’ve often heard it said that people with dyslexia have unique imaginations. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s been a happy ending for me.


Now it’s over to you

Are you dyslexic? How do you manage with your reading and writing? What book are you reading at the moment? Tell me about them by leaving me a comment.

This post is my entry to the Sunday Stills challenge, hosted by Terri Webster Schrandt. This week’s theme is ‘For the Love of Reading and Books.’ Click here for full details.

Copyright © 2019 hughsviewsandnews.com – All rights reserved.

92 thoughts on “Why Books And Libraries Can Be Terrifying Places

  1. This was such a refreshing blog post to read on your dyslexia. Had no idea it impacted you going to the library. As a long time follower of your blog, it’s nice to see that you have come so far with blogging and publishing two books. Maybe one day you will be able to walk through a library without feeling overwhelmed 🙂

    I don’t have dyslexia (or at least not to my knowledge). I do have a love-hate relationships with libraries. As a kid I loved going to libraries as that meant I could borrow around 20 books and take home with me to read – I was such an avid reader back then. Then as I grew older, libraries became a place for me where I studied and looked up research books at university – and it was a place where I could get free Wifi. At times I might feel a bit overwhelmed in the library – too many people around up until there are no empty chairs and tables to sit (libraries are popular places to study and pass the time reading in my area) and the narrow paths between shelves, and some corners can be darker than others.

    1. Thank you, Mabel.

      Yes, maybe one day I will be able to walk into a library without feeling that I do not belong there. As a child, I would visit the local library every Saturday morning, usually to pick up my next Enid Blyton book. I found her ‘Secret Seven’ books easy to read, yet had great difficulty reading her ‘Famous Five’ books. Back then, libraries were quiet places, nowhere near as busy as they now seem to be.

      And those ‘dark corners’ you speak about reminded me of an episode from ‘Doctor Who’ where rather frightening creatures occupied the shadows in a library. 😱

      1. Ah, Enid Blyton books. Those were one of my favourite books to read as a kid. Perhaps if we like the stories, we read them easier but I guess it depends on each individual. A good observation that libraries are much more busier these days – so many of us go there for free Wifi.

        Oh wow, hope those frightening creatures in Dr Who were’t too frightening 😱

  2. Hugh, thank you for sharing about your dyslexia. I had never had a student with dyslexia in my years of teaching. I was a friend of one school board member who was dyslexic. She told me she read certain letters or words backwards. It would be frustrating when you want to write yet the letters don’t spell out the way they should.
    It seems like certain books grab your interest and draw your attention and you finished them quickly.

    You’ve surely overcome many obstacles to have the accomplishment of published two books. Congratulations to your success. 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Miriam. Dyslexia can cause all sorts of confusion with words. Certain letters always seem to end up in the wrong place, plus there are many words I can not spell no matter how many times I write them. Thank goodness for software like Grammarly.

      When it comes to genres, I certainly have my favourites, but I can still have problems with reading a book even though it’s the same genre as a book I found easy to read. The same goes for watching movies. Some plots I have no problem with, yet others I find myself completely lost as to what is going on (such as the Harry Potter movies).

      1. Grammarly is very helpful. When I first thought of publishing, someone recommended that as a resource. I’ve been using it even for my regular posting, just run it through quickly in case I miss something.

        Some movies are not straight forward. They may try to keep people guessing.

  3. thank you for this wonderful article………..I completely understood your words as i have lived them myself. bless you for sharing part of your life with us.

  4. Thanks so much, Hugh, for sharing your experiences. I taught the Wilson Reading program for a while to children with reading disabilities, but I have never worked with adults. It was informative to hear about your experiences. I am confident that as time goes on we will learn more ways to cope with dyslexia.

    1. You’re welcome, Barbara. I agree that we are now in a better position to help those who are dyslexic. It’s just such a shame that many people who have the condition feel embarrassed to talk about it. However, I know how many of them feel. I went many years thinking I was the only one in the world who saw certain letters in words differently. I allowed that to go on for far too long. I’m delighted that I finally spoke about being dyslexic and how it affects my everyday life.

  5. Thank you for the post. I found it very enjoyable. I was never diagnosed with dyslexia but recognize I had many of the traits of dyslexia in early grade school. Coping assignments was hard as I switched letters and even wrote them backwards. It was my father who sat down with me to teach me some trick with a mirror and turning letters around in my mind. He said he did the same when he was young. He became an devote reader, excellent at English and writing. A successful man and great father. So I have done my best to follow in his footsteps. I love to read and write, the rules of grammar still haunt me. LOL…at 58 I no longer worry about that. But there are still times when I am tired and I can not write down a phone number correctly or I switch my letters in words. I am blessed to say I have always loved books, book stores, and libraries. They are safe places for me. Thanks Hugh what a great discussion to have.

    1. I have exactly the same problem with phone numbers. I often have to listen to a voice message several times before I get the numbers in the correct order. I never had issues with writing letters backwards, but putting them in the incorrect order was a constant problem. Even when I read back what I had written several times, those letters still look as if they are in the correct order.
      Thank you so much for sharing your comments with us.

  6. Thank you for sharing these experiences. I am not dyslexic, and while I understood the dictionary meaning of the term, it’s an entirely different level of understanding to hear how it affects someone who is. I’d say you are conquering it nicely!

    Coming to you from Blogger’s Pit Stop.

  7. Great article Hugh. Thanks for giving us a ‘glimpse’ into what you experience with dyslexia to help us better understand how it affects. And dyslexia or not, I’m with you on books that make us have to go back pages to see which character the story is referring too. Too much head hopping will have me closing the book too. 🙂 xx

    1. You’re welcome, and thanks, Debby.

      I agree about ‘head hopping’, but I have often tried reading books with excellent reviews yet can’t get into them. It may be down to the way the book has been written and the particular writing style not being one that people who have dyslexia can get into. It’s weird, but no matter how many times I try, if I don’t have a clue as to what is going on, I start feeling lost and will give up on continuing. It’s almost as if what I am reading is putting the story in a thick fog and I can’t see anything clearly. I can then pick up another book and not have the same problem at all.

      It sounds very ‘Twilight Zone’, so maybe it’s the reason I write those kinds of stories?


      1. Lol, it may well be the reason! But dyslexia or not, you aren’t alone Hugh. I’ve come across a few books in my day that I can’t seem to wrap my head around too and have had to abandon. That doesn’t make us strange, either the genre or the style written in may not appeal or compute, that’s all. 😉 xx

  8. Conquer your demons Hugh. I know you can do it! Well done for all you have accomplished this far. I think its wonderful sharing about dyslexia and I’m sure your experience will help others. 🙂

  9. Thank you for sharing the impact dyslexia has had on your reading and writing. You’ve done an amazing job overcoming these difficulties to get where you are today with your terrific writing. I’m glad you are also enjoying more books and hope that the library doesn’t scare you away in the future. Not sure if studies indicate increased imagination in people who have dyslexia but I’d say you demonstrate this phenomenon!

    1. Thank you, Molly. Terri’s #SundayStills prompt was perfect for me to share this story. Although I mention having dyslexia on the ‘about me’ page of my blog, I know that not everyone will read it. I can’t vouch for what I said about the creative minds of people who have the condition, because I don’t know anyone personally who is also dyslexic. However, I have read that Stephen King is dyslexic, but he’s never told me he is. 😀

  10. I admire you Hugh, having dyslexia and becoming an author. My partner is dyslexic so I know how hard it is. Sadly he doesn’t read, it’s just too much like hard work for him, but he does listen to audio books and enjoys them. Donna’s suggestion of becoming a guest speaker is brilliant, I think children especially would benefit from your experiences. I love books, but I was put off by libraries at an early age. Ridiculous isn’t it? I remember the library at my school being such a frightening place with a VERY strict and frightening librarian, one you see in horror movies! We only ever went there if we really, really had to, but got out as soon as possible! I agree libraries haven’t been particularly welcoming in the past or haven’t in my experience, but I do think that’s changing now as they are trying to save themselves from closure and wanting to introduce children early to the wonderful world of books by making the library spaces welcoming.
    Good luck with your new book, It’s certainly on my ‘To Read’ list.

    1. I get where you’re coming from on libraries being scary places, Sam. It’s a little like going to see your GP and getting past some of the receptionists. When I was a child, I remember going to the library and just how frightening some of the staff behind the desk could be. Back then, books were stamped with a return date. The force some of them would use in stamping a date into the book was enough to tell me not to mess with them. And if you were late returning a book …well it was something not even worth thinking about.

      I’ve tried audiobooks, but I can’t seem to get into them. I guess it may have something to do with the narrator, but I also feel guilty about sitting there not doing anything but listen (not a problem I have when watching TV).

      I agree that it’s a real shame that many libraries are having to close down because of all the cutbacks. I’m sure many of them also act as places where members of the public can meet up. I know you’re supposed to be quiet when visiting a library, but our local library also offers free wi-fi and the free use of a computer.

      I hope you enjoy the stories in More Glimpses and that you don’t have any nightmares form any of the stories.

  11. This was great to read Hugh, you’ve certainly managed to live with your dyslexia and writing two books of short stories is nothing short of amazing!! Your story is inspiring for many and I must admit, I wasn’t aware of how going into a library would be so terrifying to you!

    I have just finished More Glimpses and loved it! No nightmares this time although some of the twists were scary and i didn’t see them coming. I have left a review on Goodreads. Visiting from Stevie’s click and run link :), although I would have visited at some stage anyway!

    1. Thanks so much, Debbie. I’m glad that I stopped dyslexia from preventing me from writing and publishing two self-published books. However, if it were not for the great blogging community and all the encouragement and support I get from you all, I’d never have done it either.

      So pleased to hear that More Glimpses never gave you any nightmares. Maybe I need to write some more stories about blogging? 😈Thanks so much for leaving a review on Goodreads. As you know, for all indie-authors, reviews are like finding pieces of gold.

      Have a great weekend. 🌞

  12. I enjoyed learning a bit more about you and dyslexia, Hugh. Your real life sure has a funny twist as well. And you’ve come such a long way! I wonder whether you find the autocorrect function on your tablet (if you have one) to be helpful or not.

    I’m not dyslexic (as far as I know), but I often spell certain words wrong. Always the same words. But I think this has to do with the configuration of the keyboard or me typing too fast on my iPad. Or, my brain wanting certain letters to be next to each other despite this making no sense.

    I struggle with finding my words often. That happens when I feel overwhelmed with language. When English just gets too much for me sometimes. My brain feels like it’s going to explode. Or, when I’m tired. In the same way, I sometimes get totally fed up writing. And, typing that diary entry, the last scribbles of the day, can be the last drop if all I’ve been doing is sit behind my computer and write other things.

    I love the library story!

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed learning a little more about my struggles with being dyslexic, Liesbet.

      It’s been an interesting path I’ve come along, and I’m so glad I chose the road to blogging when I came to that crossroads. I wouldn’t have two self-published books under my belt if it weren’t for blogging and the great support and encouragement I’ve had from the blogging community.

      It’s made all the more strange in that it’s only certain words that contain an ‘a’ and ‘c’ that I struggle with. The word ‘because’ is the word where the ‘a’ and ‘c’ change positions most of all. And I’ve just remembered another word I also struggle with – ‘favourite’.

      I’m at my most creative during the morning. By mid-late afternoon, my creativity has all but left me and I usually feel burnt out. I know my brain then needs a rest from both writing and reading. However, it doesn’t stop my enjoyment of catching up on some of my favourite TV shows.

      I’m glad you enjoyed ‘The Library.’ It was created from a 99-word flash fiction challenge I participated in.

  13. Hi, Hugh – It is so impressive that you have taken something that you struggled with, and chose not to let it stop you from doing what you love. Have you thought of being a guest speaker to children at local schools (and libraries)? Many future authors could greatly benefit from what you have to say.

    1. I’ve never thought about being a guest speaker talking about my struggles with dyslexia, Donna. I never stay in the library long enough to look at any noticeboards where you’d find requests to guest speak. I suppose it doesn’t stop me from looking online, though.

  14. You should be proud of yourself for what you have achieved with dyslexia- I would never have thought you had the struggle when I read your well written posts.

  15. That is very interesting what you wrote here about dyslexia. I am not dyslectic which doesn’t prevent me from making typos. This A and C issue is a phenomenon. So blogging and writing, in general, is like a constant therapy. Or is it the obstacle in the way of living your passion?

    1. Oh no, I’ve never seen blogging as an obstacle in my writing. In fact, it was the main thing that got me back my passion for writing. It put me in touch with many other writers who all encouraged me to continue to write. I’m so thankful for the blogging community and all their support.

      1. I think I did not write this correctly. As “obstacle” I meant the dyslexia which makes it difficult to follow your passion of writing/blogging. I just wondered which way around it worked. But I think it was your passion for writing which was stronger than the hurdle of the dyslexia.

        1. Yes, it helped me beat down the obstacles that dyslexia put in my way when I wanted to pursue my love of writing. Thank heavens for software like Grammarly, though. They’ve also helped me conquer the condition.

  16. Hi Hugh this is a brilliant post. I am not dyslexic but my middle son is. A left hander who found it difficult to learn to read and write he had so much hassle at school from teachers who were either too lazy or too ignorant to try and understand. Okay I am talking 1980 when he started school and things were not as open then and dyslexic was not really accepted then. Anyway we got him through school…long depressing story , not going there. Happy ending, he is brilliant with numbers, people and all sport, especially golf. He does read in fact like you he has difficulty with letters behaving he enjoys reading. Writing too is still a problem and apart from recieving some very interesting texts and challenging WhatsApps he always gets his message across. Thank you for taking about this Hugh it is very helpful to others.💜💜

    1. Thank you so much, Willow. I’m so pleased to hear how your son has got on despite being dyslexic. During the 1970s, when I was at school, it was not a known condition. I’m sure there were other children who, like me, struggled with reading and writing and were told in school reports that they were just ‘slow learners.’ These days there is a lot more support out there, but not all children get any help. If I wanted a message to get over to anyone who reads this post, it would be ‘don’t allow dyslexia to stop making your dreams come true.’

      1. Yes indeed My lat started school August 1979 and had it not if been for us finding helpful tutors he would of sank. The school’s were almost obstructive then as you will know. Thank goodness it is better now. Yes I agree never let dyslexia stop you following your dreams 💜💜💜💜

  17. “each and every one of the authors that was alive when the last of the trees disappeared, was put to death” Now there’s a scary thought. It’s tough enough overcoming Dyslexia for reading, but writing adds an extra challenge. Good for you for persisting, Hugh. I struggle with writing because one hand seems to have a faster connection to my brain. The letter combinations that involve right and left hand keys often get reversed.

    1. I sometimes think my brain is overtaking my thoughts and action, Dan. It can quickly get burnt out (usually by late afternoon) after which no writing or reading gets done. I find it whacky how the letters in certain words can keep getting reversed. It doesn’t matter how many times I type them, those letters still end up in the wrong order.

  18. Your story is so interesting, Hugh. I am so glad this condition has not sidelined you. You are an inspiration to many who suffer from dyslexia. Thank you for using Sunday Stills to share more of your story and a little bit more about you!

  19. I trained as a tutor for dyslexics years ago and wish teachers could use the techniques we were shown to help children before they became adults. It is not easy for an adult to absorb a new way of approaching reading and writing. They have so much to unlearn. You are right to try to say the words out loud. It helps to be able to hear whether a sound is a consonant or a vowel. Where adults become confused is when there are vowel combinations that can sound different such as ‘ou.’ in mouse and court and ‘au.’in because and laugh! There is a homophone dictionary called the A.C.E. Spelling Dictionary by David Moseley and Catherine Nicol which I used but I expect everything is on line, nowadays. I think you do brilliantly.

    1. Thank you so much, Julie. Software such as Grammarly certainly helps me with my writing, but it doesn’t always pick up mistakes. I also believe in the saying that the more you try something, the better you will get at it. That’s certainly been the case with my writing, but my reading skills are still quite limited. The online world has also helped me in other ways, especially the encouragement and support I get from fellow writers, bloggers and authors. And not forgetting my readers, too. I’d have given up many years ago without all of them.

  20. Thanks so much for the shoutout, Hugh! I posted my review of More Glimpses yesterday, and after reading your stories, I absolutely agree with the correlation between dyslexia and unique imaginations – yours astounds me. I loved the stories, and had so much fun reading them. You’re an inspiration!

    1. Thank you for the lovely comments and thanks ever so much for the fantastic review you gave More Glimpses, Teri. I’m delighted you enjoyed the stories, especially ‘The Tunnel’ (a story some people guess the ending too, but most don’t).

      I enjoyed ‘Call Drops’. If it weren’t for your review, I’d never have downloaded and read it. It just goes to show how important reviewing books is. You do a brilliant job with your reviews, and I know just how much all of us indie-authors appreciate it.

      I don’t follow many blogs that do book reviews, but as I enjoy the same genres as you, I knew I’d probably enjoy some of the books you read and reviewed.

  21. 🙂 I was going to suggest audio books, too. Your explanations and musings made me wonder if certain writing styles are easier for dyslexia. I do not have trouble reading, yet feel some stories slog and others fly.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective! If you think to do it, I’m also curious how letters and words actually appear to you. I’m not sure an explanation can properly encapsulate the sensation, but thought it worth the ask.

    1. Sometimes words can appear to me on a page, yet when I read them back, they are gone. I’ve had that happen a lot on my blog posts. I always take time writing posts and never publish anything on the same day I’ve written it. I will keep going back to it, yet when I publish the post and reread it, certain words I thought were there when I read the draft post are not there. It can be very frustrating.

      As I mentioned in this post, I have problems with words that contain both the letters ‘A’ and ‘C’. I also have the same problem with words that contain both the letters ‘A’ and ‘G’. The letters always end up in the incorrect order. And there are certain words such as ‘essential’ and ‘thank’ that I always end up spelling incorrectly no matter how many times I write the word. I also seem to add the letters ‘e’ and ‘d’ to the word ‘just’ yet I am never aware of actually pressing those keys on my keyboard when I write the word.

      It may all sound bizarre, but it seems to be the tricks my dyslexic brain keeps playing on me. Thank heavens for Grammarly.

  22. I love libraries and could easily live in one. But I am a slow reader and I know I will never be able to read all the books I want. My TBR pile just gets higher and higher and it gets frustrating. I am in awe of folks who can read two or three books a week. You have done well to publish not one but two collections of short stories and your blog posts are entertaining.

    1. Thank you, Darlene. Yes, I know what you mean., How do some people read so many books in a week? But I guess some would ask me “How do you read and comment on so many blog posts in a week?”

      Thank you for your kind words.

  23. I am in awe of you Hugh, overcoming Dyslexia and writing, not one, but two books of short stories! The second one is scheduled in for reading this Easter holiday!

    1. If it weren’t for the constant encouragement and support I get from all my blogging pals, I’d never have continued with the writing, Ritu. By far, I find the reading element far more difficult with being dyslexic. There are so many online tools, like Grammarly, that can help me with my writing, but I’ve not come across anything (as yet) that can help with my reading. I’ve probably missed out on many great books, but I’m just happy that the ones I can read comfortably seem to help me get over my dyslexic brain.

        1. I have tried some audiobooks, Ritu, but I don’t seem to be able to sit back without watching something. I start getting up and doing jobs, although maybe listening to them while ironing is the answer?

        2. I know what you mean. I can’t listen whilst driving because often the kids are with me and they want music and personally, I like the feel of holding a book and knowing I’ve read something properly!

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