All my life, I have loved spending days spent sat somewhere, reading a book. The appeal is not just the book itself, the feel of the paper pages, the smell of new buys or even the old favourites, it’s the chance to relax, unwind and explore new areas of life previously unknown or long forgotten. You can take a book outside, weather permitting, and spend a day amongst nature, getting lost in a different world. It’s a wonderful way to spend time outside, or in, without the constant need for technology (he says while typing on a laptop!). Even without the added bonus of greater knowledge, reading would be the most enjoyable way to spend a day you have free and therefore it saddened me when I fell out of love with reading.
Obsessed with University and then with work, I spent any free time I had playing on my PlayStation or watching movies. I didn’t think I had the time to read and, more sadly, the motivation to do so. I was unbelievably, unequivocally wrong. Recently, following her exams, Emma decided she wanted to start reading again, and having learnt to further trust her judgement following a recent foray into the exercise world, I went along with it. It took me all of about 10 minutes to realise what a wonderful idea it was. Picking up a book I had started about 2 – 3 years ago and read in various bits since, I had that finished within 2 days. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been into it before, in fact it had always gripped my attention, I had just always used the excuse that I was too busy to read. While the reality of life always finds a way to set in, it should be appreciated that there will always be time to read, even if it’s just a chapter or two before bed.
Once again, Waterstones has become my favourite shop to browse, once again I find myself craving reading when I’m not doing anything and once again I make time in my day to schedule in reading, 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there. I honestly believe it’s making me happier and more relaxed, and for that I am incredibly grateful. It’s for that reason that I’ve decided to draft this up, a place to talk about my love for books, as well as why I prefer them to the technological alternatives.
I should start by saying I am limiting the examples in this post to fiction books. I have always read non-fiction books, and indeed read a few during my “out-of-love-with-reading” period. They are a fantastic source of knowledge and learning more about periods or people where you don’t know the subject well, or where you do and you want a different viewpoint. Some can be as well written as their fictional cousins, some can be funny as well as informative and therefore I find a way to fit in non-fiction reading every day, and have always tried to. I never fell out of love with knowledge and non-fiction, and I treasure every non-fiction book I own just as much as I treasure the fiction ones.
For me, books will always be better than films. In films, you are limited by physics, budgets, human skills (or CGI limitations) and time. In books, you are limited by nothing except your imagination. There is no idea too big for books; there are no scenes too bold. As long as you can describe it beyond doubt, you can make it as big as you want. In the 21st century, imagination appears to be fading, writing fiction books would be one way to keep it alive, indeed to make it thrive. It’s easier to sit through films, it’s easier to digest the information given to you through the idea of moving pictures but films taken from books lack many things the books can give you. Books can give you description of smells, an insight into a writer’s mind, not cluttered by bad direction and big name stars, and they allow you to come up with your own view of how a house, a character or a city would look. There will always be a place for moving pictures, but equally there will always be a place for books.
You can get lost in a book. Lost in a world created by an author to be explored by them and later by you. Authors can create locations, and by simply providing maps and a text can make you desire to discover more about the various cities and landmarks referenced but not explored. Creating such a world allows the author to continue to visit, at various times and points, with various characters and stories and thus pleases the reader who wishes to deeper explore such a world. For me, this is one of the greatest aspects of fiction books, even stand alone fiction books set in our time, in our world. Characters and stories become endless, based around the same basic themes (romance, action etc) but very different in terms of context. There is a reason why sequels are better in print than on the screen, possibly pressure but more likely greater imagination.
There are many reasons why I love books, too many to probably talk about here. They don’t have to be literary reasons either, for me the feel of a book is enough to treasure and I do all I can to prolong the bending of the spine or scuffing of the cover. That isn’t to say I don’t scuff or bend, for that is inevitable with a paperback book you read and love. Which reminds me, I always revisit books. Despite the words always being the same, the outcome, for good or not, being the same and the characters remaining exactly as they are, there is always something different about reading a book for the second or third time. Much like a film, where you pay attention to the background, a re-visit of a book can allow you to give more attention to minor characters, remodel how you pictured a scene and increase your understanding of the subject. I guarantee you that you will always notice something you missed the first time.
While I appreciate the need for the technological alternatives to books, they will never replace the beauty of a book. Books don’t need to be plugged in to charge, and thus they won’t run out of battery. Yes, taking them away with you means a heavier bag and less space however I’ve always taken 3 or 4 on holiday with me and never had a problem. The sun argument isn’t valid either, for one they can be used to block the sun, but furthermore I find reading a phone’s screen immensely difficult in the sun even with the brightness turned to maximum. More importantly than any of that though is the fact that no device can replace the smell of a book, or the feel of it’s pages. It’s for those reasons that no device could ever convince me to leave the pure delight of books behind.
Words are power, if there is anything history teaches us it’s that if a person can find the right words at the right time, they can do extraordinary things. Spoken words are great yet even unscripted speeches are being formulated and written down in the mind before being spoken. The hardest part is conveying what you have to say on paper, away from the heat of the moment and very much in the future. What’s written down remains there for centuries, to be seen and read by thousands over. Within that lies the real reason why books are spectacular. Even if some words are out of place, some chapters don’t meet the mark or some characters are below par, the book and story as a whole is usually wonderful and that takes thought, time and effort. Books are the purest form of beauty on this planet and while there will always be bad books, the good ones will be the ones we treasure and talk about.
I regret ever falling out of love with reading and I will do anything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I believe that continuing the tradition and trend of picking up a book and reading is one of my generation’s biggest tasks. We need to teach our children and their children to read, to revel and enjoy books and to use them to all their potential. To watch something is enjoyable, to read it is magical.