Why book reading should regain its craze

A friend recently told me that he admired the number of books I read – they just could never read as many books as I did. I mean, I read over 20 books this year, but who matters? This isn’t the first time someone has commented on my flipping habits. Almost every time I mention “reading” as a hobby, I get a lot of praise for it, which leaves me in awe.

Most of the people I talk to say they would like to read more, but they just don’t have the time or the energy. The act of reading seems so romantic, but people – mostly young people – don’t feel excited about it anymore.

I don’t see what isn’t exciting about the books though. There is a book on almost everything. You have books on romance, mystery, thrills, and self-help. Maybe even books with all four handsets. Seriously, what’s not to love?

That doesn’t mean people don’t read at all. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 74% of Americans have read at least one book in the past 12 months – with an emphasis on “at least one.” Considering the size of the US population – over 372 million people – this statistic really comforts me. This means that three-quarters of those reading this have read something in the past year – good job, I’m proud.

For the 26% who haven’t read anything this year, this column is especially for you.

I have always been an avid reader. I was that kid in elementary school who filled up reading journals, always had “Harry Potter” in his backpack and was based on the first name with the school librarian. Over time, I have found solace in the books. Turning the pages and collecting novels has become a kind of therapy for me.

I never thought it was such a weirdness until high school, when friends seriously wondered why I read so much. “Well, why do you read so little?” I would refute without ever getting a good answer.

Make no mistake, reading is not my only source of entertainment. I binge watch “Friends” (I know it’s basic but can’t help it) and bands like Beach House, Arctic Monkeys and Fleetwood Mac are a part of my life. But books will always be my first choice when it comes to entertainment.

So why does it seem like books are descending the totem pole of entertainment for everyone? Well I think it has to do with the sheer number of things we have to choose these days. With all this technology, it’s easier to go social media or TV streaming.

Although now you can read books from your phone, so I try not to let this excuse slip.

Another thing is that books take time – longer than, say, watching an episode of a TV show. They develop more slowly, which can put people off. We live in an age of instant gratification, so we’re prone to wanting things quick and available. It may seem more rewarding to watch something on a screen than to read words on a page just because things are moving faster.

But books are fun, man! I’m serious!

There really is no such thing as curling up with a book at the end of the day to relax, or staying awake until dawn because things get too intense. Of course you could discuss curling up with your laptop and watching something is just as satisfying, there have been plenty of times I’ve spent sleepless nights watching The Handmaid’s Tale. But that only adds unnecessary screen time to your day when you could consume a story in another way.

If books were hyped the same way as movies, television, or music, more people would remember that reading is actually still, you know, one thing. Imagine a world with advertisements for books, bombarded authors like celebrities, and everyone with a book in their hand. Okay, maybe it is too far – small steps.

Perhaps we should focus on the plausible option – like increasing the representation of literature. There should be more books covered, more authors interviewed, and more enthusiasm for new releases in any arts and entertainment section of any newspaper or magazine. Books are as much art and entertainment as anything, and it’s often forgotten.

In a twisted way, I hope this column made you feel a little bad. Maybe you’ll dust off that book that was on your bedside table and read a chapter or two from it. Maybe you will really have fun and have to admit I was right – I like being right.

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