It’s refreshing to see people posting quotations from Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Bukowski on their Facebook statuses and Instagram feeds. But how many of us have actually read Bukowski’s books from beginning to end?
Growing up in the Cliffsnotes and Sparknotes generation, we are used to looking for answers the easy way. It almost seems ridiculous to read an entire book when we can simply find annotations, quotes, and analyses online. And even when we do read, we tend to skim.
Our bookstores have closed—alright, partly because of Amazon.com—and tablet screens have prevailed over paper. This is literary deprivation.
And although tablets may seem to inspire readers, they actually prevent readers from getting lost in a story. Instead of being able to escape for hours, we are compelled to open other apps intermittently.
Twitter has enabled us to read news headlines that are condensed to 140 characters, while Instagram allows us to share our stories with pictures. Even Buzzfeed has created lists upon lists for us to scroll through when we are bored. And why should we read when we can listen to webisodes online?
I remember the first time I connected with a character in a book. I was reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and realized I had shared so many of his thoughts and elaborations. Finishing the book was akin to losing a close friend with whom I had spent years of my life. And I was only able to make that comparison after the protagonist made the observation: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.”
Many of us think the same thoughts and feel the same feelings every day. Too often we are so immersed in our own troubled realities, and in the world social media has created for us.
There are so many other realities we can be a part of, if we just opened up a book. We have to stop associating reading with homework. Nobody is telling us to read 7 chapters over the weekend. It is not a chore, but rather a privilege to be able to separate from our worlds and get lost in another one.
Why are we limiting ourselves when we can see through a different pair of eyes? When people are expressing so many feelings and thoughts and experiences, why are we shutting them out?
Let’s revive this endangered pastime. Whether we are reading to escape or to learn about a subject we have minimal knowledge of, or to enter a fantasy world that an author has so brilliantly created for us, we are temporarily enabled to flee from a world that is so often stale and repetitive, and retreat to a world that is written with intent and carries meaning.
Nicole Behnam is a writer, host, and a Generation-Y expert. For inquiries, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org