Can you recite, off the top of your head, the title of the last book you read? Can you estimate how many books you’ve read in the past month — in the past year?
In my opinion, there are too many people who never pick up (or, sigh, download) another book the moment they don’t have to, if they ever even did their required reading in school at all. I don’t believe there are people who “just aren’t readers.” If you don’t like to read, that’s fine, I’m not going to force you. But there is a subject matter, a format (novel? Audiobook? Comic?), a style of writing, an author, an optimal word length, for everyone. You can choose not to read — but if you do, there’s something for you. And you should do all you can to find it.
Why don’t more people read? I ask this question because I’m curious, not because I’m judging anyone who doesn’t. I just wonder if our lives are just way more cluttered with other stuff than they used to be — even though sitting in front of a screen and watching shows, for example, is nothing new.
I’m not going to sit here and say Netflix and YouTube have ruined reading forever, because I spend more hours per week than I’m proud to admit on both of those platforms, and I’m still on book 30 of 50 this year.
There are people who prefer videos and BuzzFeed articles and podcasts to reading, but there are also plenty of people who prefer to diversify their entertainment, or edutainment, depending on the types of books you tend to read. I love streaming TV, but I do get tired of sitting there staring at a screen — I like mixing things up and staring at a physical page full of words for awhile.
So it’s not that we need to stop streaming and replace it with reading. No — we just need to do a better job of balancing watching, listening, reading, playing, and doing.
Maybe we just don’t know what to read, where to look for recommendations, whether or not we’ll like something before we dive into it. I hope that doesn’t stop people from exploring the wondrous world of books! There are so many! Which is probably the issue!
You already know how to read, but there’s so much more to gain from doing more of it on your own time. It forces you to focus — something I’m guessing many adults struggle with today (I do!). You get to use your imagination, picture how things might look and sound, something you don’t get to do when you’re watching a movie. Reading can also make you feel good — it’s a healthy kind of distraction, stress reliever, and when all else fails, go-to BFF.
If you do want to start reading more — even if only to inspire yourself to write more — or you want to encourage someone you know to do the same, start with the books from high school English class. They’re better than you think. In fact, reading them now, having already been exposed to them once before, makes for an even better reading experience.
Everything you had to read for a grade in school, you should read again at some point. I never finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird my freshman year of high school, but I have since read it cover to cover at least five times. A book you read (or were supposed to read) for a grade is much more valuable if you read it at least once for the assignment, and at least a second time on your own.
I’m more aware of my surroundings, I’m exposed to different cultures and religions, I can explore and try to understand ways of thinking that are different than mine — all because I read. If the social internet has taught us anything, it’s that more people need harsh, relatable exposure to all of these things and more. Books can do that. Any kind of story, whether you’re physically holding a book in your hand or not, can.
I think people should read more of what they want to read, because they want to read. I mean, 50 Shades isn’t necessarily what I’d choose, but maybe those kinds of things could be someone’s gateway drug to more … in-depth and insightful literature. You never know until you try. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Read more. Talk about books more. It just makes us all better people, and maybe happier, too.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.