Why reading books should regain its craze

A friend recently told me he admires the number of books I read – they just could never read as much as I do. I mean, I’ve read over 20 books this year, but who’s counting? This isn’t the first time someone has commented on my page-turning habits. Almost every time I list “reading” as a hobby, I get a lot of praise for it, which baffles me.

Most 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 sounds so romantic, but people – especially young people – don’t feel excited about it anymore.

I don’t see what’s not exciting in the books. There’s a book on just about anything. You have books about romance, mystery, thrill and helping each other. Maybe even books with all four combined. Seriously, what’s not to like?

That doesn’t mean people don’t read at all. According to a PSurvey of the new research center, 74% of Americans have read at least one book in the past 12 months – with the emphasis on “at least one”. Considering the size of the US population – over 372 million people – this stat really comforts me. That means 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 specifically for you.

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

I never thought it was such an oddity until high school, when friends seriously asked me why I read so much. “Well, why do you read so little? I would refute, but I would never get a good answer.

Don’t get me wrong, reading isn’t my only source of entertainment. I watch ‘Friends’ (I know it’s basic, but I can’t help it) and bands like Beach House, Arctic Monkeys and Fleetwood Mac are a big part of my life. But books will always be my first choice when it comes to entertaining myself.

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

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

Another thing is that books take time – longer than, say, watching an episode of a TV show. They grow more slowly, and that can put people off. We live in an age of instant gratification, so we tend to want things that are quick and available. Looking at something on a screen can feel more rewarding than reading words on a page just because things happen faster.

But books are fun, man! I’m serious!

There really is nothing quite like snuggling up with a book at the end of the day to relax or staying up until dawn because things get too intense. Of course, you could argue with your laptop and watching something is just as satisfying, there were plenty of times I spent sleepless nights watching The Handmaid’s Tale. But that just adds unnecessary screen time to your day when you could otherwise be consuming a story.

If books were hyped in the same way as movies or TV or music, more people would be reminded that reading is actually still, you know, a thing. Imagine a world with book ads, authors bombarded like celebrities, and everyone with a book in their hands. Okay, maybe that’s too far – small steps.

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

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

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