There’s nothing I love more than reading a good book. There’s something romantic and grand about it, knowing I have an entire world at my fingertips. All I have to do is turn the page and suddenly I’m in a place that the storyteller in me calls home. I consider reading to be therapeutic. A release. An escape. After all, each of us needs an escape every once in a while. These little escapes are prevalent in our everyday lives. Movies, music, video games; it’s the same basic concept. They’re stories too, only they’re digested in different ways. But why do some of us embrace one form and condemn another? I ask this because time and time again I find myself having to defend my love for reading, and I am tired of it.
It happens the same way. I’m kicking back with a book to keep me company. Then out of nowhere someone approaches me, usually someone who’s offended by the presence of a book. “Why do you do that?” he’ll ask. It’s always a guy. “Do what?” I say, hoping that they’re referring to my posture, the tendency for my leg to shake, anything but the book in my hands. “Why do you read?” he’ll go on to say with a rather disgusted look, perhaps judging me on my choice of entertainment, “it’s boring and it takes too long.” My, my, my, where do I even begin?
Why do you read? I get asked this question at least a couple times a week, and it’s never sincere either. It’s always out of disdain. Whether by a relative, a friend, or a total stranger; they ask me all the same. I might as well be holding a gun instead (at least with a gun they’ll leave me alone). The answer to the question is simple. I read because I like stories. They’re my form of nourishment. To quote Tyrion from Game of Thrones, “a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” Books entertain as well as inform. And reading engages the mind as well as the heart. Quite simply, we need to read in order to relate and connect to the world around us. Stories set us free. They’re my obsession, really. And we all have obsessions. So what makes mine so alien to others? Unfortunately, it’s because the very act of reading has suffered a lot of unfair prejudices.
The uninitiated believe reading to be a chore. A mindless task. A burden. For me, it’s quite the opposite. Reading sparks my imagination and fills my heart with wonder. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that. Others don’t see it that way. It’s disheartening to hear people deny the fact that they read, as if it’s uncool or perhaps no longer trending. In truth, we read every day. You may not like to read books, but you undoubtedly read the movies and the television shows you watch (insert collective gasp here). Watching is the mere act of you sitting and staring at the screen. The “reading” is what happens in that noggin of yours as you process it all. How else are you able to summarize a movie or quote it later on? My friend, that’s because you are reading. Boom. Plot twist.
It’s boring. On the contrary I find it quite joyous, which is hard to believe for some people because of the circumstances. You’re sitting down and staring at a bunch of words. That’s all it is to them, and it seems to define the very concept of “boring.” Yet, how is this any different from watching a movie? It’s certainly easier to put on a movie, I’ll say that much. You don’t have to dream up anything. It’s there. The movie does the dreaming for you, which allows you to remain on that couch, thoroughly entertained by what’s in front of you. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just like to take it a step further. I prefer to dream on my own. I read the words and my mind takes care of the rest. That’s the power of imagination. You create and project the movie yourself. It may sound exhausting, but hey, at least you still don’t have to leave the couch. So what are you complaining about?
It takes too long. This is the most common phrase associated with reading and by far the most frustrating. If length is what scares you, then my dear friend I hope you’re ready for the journey of life. I’ll give you some advice: life ain’t short either. Now, I understand that movies and tv shows provide audiences with the preferred experience of witnessing a story unfold from beginning to end in about one or two hours time. Books, on the other hand, take time. Then again, that too is what defines the experience of reading. Of course this depends on how fast of a reader you are, but no matter what you take the story with you. You live with it. You grow as a person with the turn of each page. You live, and then you live again. Unlike movies, you’re not at the mercy of a jam-packed theater, stuck to your chair. You have the freedom to stop and go. And you have the freedom to live. So give it time. Plus, don’t the best things in life take time?
And there you have it. This is my stance on reading books. This is me defending something that has saved my life over and over again. Now, I know that we all have our hobbies, so hey, to each his own. My only request is that you don’t judge me for what I love to do. So the next time you see me with a book in my hands, let me be. Unless you want to discuss the book. Then by all means have a seat. Otherwise, do not disturb. I’m making a movie here, and I intend to finish it, however long it takes.