If you’re reading this blog post, chances are that, like me, you’re reading “stuff” all day long. You glance at the news headlines online and scroll through the blogs you subscribe to; you sift through emails and text messages; you open the mail, read office memos, and so on. Thanks to these multiple demands on our attention, I suspect many of us who enjoy reading find it difficult to put aside some time to sit down and read a book.
For a bookworm like myself, this is also a practical problem. When people know that you love books, you tend to receive books as gifts, such as at Christmas or on your birthday. Similarly, should you find yourself at an event where books are being given away, or where there is a book-signing, you can’t help but pick up a few volumes for yourself. Within the past six months alone, while I choose not to actually count and tell myself the real number, I would say that I have thus accumulated about two dozen books.
As time passes that stack of unread books, which you have done little more than crack open to have a thumb through, grows ever taller. Perhaps you hide them away somewhere so you don’t have to look at them, but in the back of your mind you know they are still there, verbally haunting you with a plaintive cry of, “Read me!” You may even feel guilty about the fact that for months now, these things have been waiting for you to give them a try, while you have wasted countless hours online watching cat videos, arguing about sci-fi movies, or taking quizzes to find out which 90’s pop idol you are (Justin Timberlake, apparently.)
Far be it from me, someone who loves and appreciates what good the internet can do, to tell you to stop using it altogether. Plenty of good reading material can be found online, and we can use the internet wisely as a tool to expand our knowledge of a subject. There is also the social aspect of reading something on the internet, which can quickly and easily be shared with our online communities – something that a solitary reader of a book would find it difficult or impossible to do.
Yet that being said, there is nothing quite like settling down on the couch or under the covers with a new book, and savoring the words within it, all by yourself. Within the pages of a book there is no “share” button to click on, no comments section to scroll through, no ads for unwanted or unpleasant products on the side. There are only words, which have to stand or fall on their own, depending on how adept the writer is at stringing them together.
The problem remains, however: where do we find the time to have these experiences?
As my readers know, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent, apart from a cursory visit on Sunday mornings just to clear out my inbox and notifications. Over the past couple of weeks, with that activity out of my life, I have been reading like mad: six books so far. True, that’s not much of a dent in the stack of unread volumes I need to get through, but it’s a decent start.
The pleasure of quietly reading, with only the scraping sound of a turning page to break the silence, is something too easily drowned out in the noisy assault of media on our senses. When we are constantly bombarded with visual and audible stimuli, the subtleties of language and the joy of a well-chosen turn of phrase or insightful observation can be utterly lost. On top of which, I had forgotten that when I pick up a book, I’m reminded that in reading other people’s work, I’m often inspired to pursue my own writing interests.
So now that you’ve read this post, gentle reader, my challenge to you is to go read something else, preferably bound between two covers and printed on paper. Turn off the computer and the television, silence the phone, and spend some time enjoying an activity which today, we too often take for granted among all the bells and whistles of 21st century technology. For wonderful as that technology is, there really is no substitute anywhere in new media for the experience of quietly paging through a good book.