Why we should return to reading books

When was the last time you read a book?

For this post, I asked myself this exact question, and I’ll try to express my thoughts about reading in general, talk about the benefits, as well as some downsides, and how reading is being replaced by other media.

Honestly, it’s been quite a while since I’ve read an actual book, from beginning to end, pretty much since I finished high school. The gymnasium gave us a lot of reading material (novels and plays, as well as poetry), mostly European classics like Dostoevsky and Shakespeare. At the time being, I didn’t like to read as much as I found it hard to relate to something which had its significance in the 18th century. 

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“High school gave us a lot to read.”

Instead of being explained the importance of those books, or told what to look for prior to reading, we were solely instructed to read a book a month so we could write the essay later on. Surely, it was a great way to read a whole bunch of literature classics, but nowadays, I can barely recall those book’s titles. Alternatively, this schooling principle changed when I started with the IB Diploma program, which featured a curriculum that took a completely different perspective – it was based on understanding instead of remembering. We only had to read a couple of books, but read them, and learn about them in a non-linear fashion.

The focus wasn’t on the book’s plot, but rather on understanding its characters, the relationships between them, and why the author decided for each individual element in their work. I read the same paragraph over and over again, and with a pencil in hand – to mark the important parts, make connections, and find greater meaning.

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Close reading – reading with a pencil to find greater meaning

So why am I talking about reading in general, or in my case what we called close reading? I believe that reading is being abandoned, or at least exchanged for other types of modern-day media, such as TV shows, YouTube videos or podcasts, as well as Instagram and Snapchat stories. While I’m personally a big fan of YouTube videos and think that there is really good content out there for anyone willing to watch it, I’m not sure how the use of modern media affects its audience psychologically. 

While reading a book, you have to devote your entire focus and read it line by line, otherwise, you’ll quickly find yourself lost between paragraphs not knowing where you’ve left off or what was the last thing that happened. In a video or podcast, you can simply drag the timeline slider a bit back, or even press a dedicated key, and you’re back on track. 

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“Books are being exchanged for other types of media.”

I think this has a lot to do with your concentration. A lot of people nowadays watch TV or spend their time on the computer, but you’ll rarely hear that someone reads books, news or internet articles. The reality is that reading is more difficult and thought-demanding – you have to work a bit in order to consume the information, but the reward you get is a lot greater than if you listened to it in a form of a podcast (link for thirty reading benefits down below).

So instead of being mad at the school system for prescribing us boring novels, I’m glad they gave us a lot to read – it was a simple workout for managing your everyday dose of information. And even though the themes of the literature they gave us seemed old-fashioned, the literature’s ideas still remain similar to something that would happen in present – which everyone can relate to, if they’re willing to put in the time.

Further reading:

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