In Defence of Reading

Around three years ago, I had the misfortune to catch a really nasty bug. Stuck at home for a few days with little to do except sleep and eat dry slices of toast, I found myself reaching for old books that had been gathering dust on shelves in my bedroom – novels that I had once purchased with eager excitement, only to quickly forget and move on from.

Inspired by my newly-rediscovered love of books, I sat and wrote an article for my writing portfolio about the benefits of reading. In the article, I pointed out that the three main advantages to reading (expanding your vocabulary, inspiring your creativity and learning important lessons) weren’t only applicable to stories and novels, but also to blog posts, magazines, or anything else that involved the written word.

A lot has changed in my life since I first wrote that article, but despite time-restraints and the stresses of the daily grind, I still greatly believe that few past-times are as beneficial as simply picking up a text and reading it. Particularly now, when I am confined to my home by the threat of a considerably more sinister bug than the one I caught three years ago, reading has been an invaluable comfort when real life is far stranger than the plot line of any book.

To me, the written word has always acted as a safe and welcome escape. From the dated yet charming halls of Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers when I was a child (so tempting that I remember begging my parents to send me to boarding school – thankfully they did not) to the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon when I discovered the Star Wars Legends series in my early teens, the locations I visited via the yellowing pages of books borrowed from the local library seemed a world away from the stresses, worries and struggles of my actual reality.

As I grew older, I found myself drawn more towards biographies of the notable and self-help books written by those who had mastered their craft. Far better than any structured interview on TV or a report in a magazine, these books allowed me to delve deep into the minds of the people who fascinated me; to follow the journeys of those I admired exactly as they had felt and experienced them. I poured over thick, hard-bound chronicles researching the lives of Romanov imposters and felt as if I, too, had played a valuable role in exposing their lies. Flicking through the pages of a Dale Carnegie ‘How to…’ guide, I imagined myself as a successful business woman who could command the attention of all in the room with nothing but good posture and a steady voice. I was fascinated by what had been, who had lived, and what the world would have in store for me.

Looking to make the most of the spare time afforded to me by the ongoing pandemic, I recently purchased an Amazon Kindle and immediately started to fill it with classic novels that I have yet to tick off my reading list and informative guides that will supposedly help me with my new career. At first, the hard plastic shell of the e-reader and the lack of that ‘new book’ smell that accompanied my usual paper selections disappointed me, but such feelings soon passed when I realised that I could slip multiple books into my crowded handbag with ease, and that no one but myself would ever know that I am still at the point of reading stories for children in Japanese. Slipping my trusty Kindle into my bag has quickly become as vital a step to my daily routine as grabbing a macchiato on my way to a meeting or fixing on a mask before I head to the subway.

Do I still stand by the article I wrote three years ago? Do I still believe that reading is a highly beneficial and important hobby to have? Of course. If anything, I feel more passionately about it now than I did back then, and it goes without saying that the list of benefits I could think of today would be far longer than simply boosting vocabulary and creativity or teaching important skills. In fact, I’d wager that there are as many benefits to reading as there are books and texts to read – a great many more than I could ever hope to experience.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

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