The only thing I dislike about reading is when a book ends. It’s only then that I realize just how emotionally invested I am with the story, the characters, the words, and I find myself going through the five stages of grief every time. Sometimes I even procrastinate reading the last 20 pages or so of a book I am particularly invested in simply because I don’t want it to end. I love how ink on paper has the power to bring an imaginary world and fictional characters to life, to evoke such strong emotions in the reader. I don’t necessarily read books for the plot. In fact, one of my favorite books of all time To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf hardly has any storyline at all- and yet Woolf’s beautifully intertwined elegiac language still manages to steal me away to another time and place. Personally, I love reading because of the beauty of words, and I love authors who have mastered the craft of the human language. Just like the lyrics of a song, the pages of a book are pure art.
So often I hear young people say they don’t “like” to read books. This is especially common in today’s world, where studies have shown that the way the younger generation finds and absorbs information has significantly changed. This generation is not necessarily reading less, but we are reading differently. The internet makes it much faster and easier to access information we desire, which in theory has made books obsolete. We can Google any topic that interests us and skim unlimited articles instead of flipping through hundreds of pages in a book. Furthermore, being constantly surrounded by iPhones, Netflix, and Youtube, has made us accustomed to overstimulation, and our attention spans have been conditioned to 140-character tweets. Of course reading a book seems as impossibly tedious task in a world of instant gratification. Recent studies have also shown that we are a highly visual generation. We are drawn to graphics because they allow us to interpret information far more quickly than a paragraph of text. Dishearteningly, researchers have found that gen-y’s and millennials read for information, not pleasure.
About a year ago, I heard about this new app that allows people to read a novel in under 90 minutes. Created by a company called Spritz, the app manipulates the format of words to line them up with the eye’s natural motion of reading; it eliminates the need to move your eyes while you read so you can process words instantaneously. Try it for yourself:
While this may be appealing to a world that values efficiency- and a generation that gets bored by books- I believe it eliminates the *magic* of reading. It does not allow readers to truly savor the words. A book is an emotional journey that should not be crammed into the shortest possible time frame, but enjoyed over a relaxing interval, allowing the reader to reflect, dwell, and truly get lost in the story. This app may allow users to become “well-read” quickly, but does it maintain the integrity of the author’s delicately crafted work of art? I don’t think so.
In short, I believe that anyone who doesn’t like to read simply hasn’t found a book they truly love yet. They haven’t experienced what it’s like to fall in love with characters, to become part of a carefully constructed imaginary world, to relish in emotional undertones and imagery. Reading is not just about finding information, it’s about opening your mind to another person’s reality. It’s about basking in the beauty of words. It’s not all Hemingway and Thoreau anymore, either. Plenty of modern authors are capable of captivating you more than you can even imagine, pulling you in so deep that you are essentially gasping for air as you turn the last page. A library is your wardrobe to Narnia, and books are the easiest way to *see* the world.