If I could do anything at all, at any given moment, it would be reading. I prop a book in front of me on the treadmill; I commute to work on foot down the sidewalks of New York City with a book in my hands; my favorite room in my house is the one that displays all of my books as if they were trophies. Books are the treasures I’ve collected, the friends I’ve made, the memories I cherish.
That is not a cry for help. No, it’s an invitation for you to join me. Books are among the most egalitarian of pursuits: any literate person can enjoy them, even for free, assuming they have access to a library and some form of photo identification. There are books on every subject you can imagine and hundreds you cannot. Books can help you, teach you, and simply entertain you.
Not sure you’re fully exploiting the gift that is reading? Then, ahem, read on. These are the signs you should be reading more:
You think Borders was a chain of Mexican restaurants, and that Amazon.com is a travel adventure website.I’m here to tell you that each of those institutions was or remains in the book-selling business. When Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011, I went into a period of mourning that I only exited when I purchased my “Prime” account with Amazon.com. Having a “Prime” account with Amazon is like having a black AmEx, only for poorer, less exclusive people. It grants you faster shipping times, and doesn’t charge you for them. So now when I need to clutter my home with more books, I can do it in under 24 hours. If you’re not taking similar advantage of this high-flying purchasing power, it’s because you’re not fully embracing your inner librarian.
You think glasses are a fashion accessory. Your eyesight has not been deteriorated by staring at small font on a sunny day at the beach, or by squinting into the dim circle of visibility provided by a flashlight on a thin page. Accordingly, you have never visited an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. You have only visited the whimsy section at Anthropologie or the hipster aisle at Urban Outfitters to outfit the area north of your nose and south of your wrinkle-free forehead.
You think Young Adult is a movie starring Charlize Theron or the name for the 18-to-25-year-old box on surveys. Guess what? It’s also a genre of literature, which I happen to appreciate more as I get older. It’s responsible for the cultural phenomenon that was the Twilight movies. The genre also lays claim to one of the best books I’ve read in years: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. If you haven’t read that yet, stop everything and go do it. You can consider that less a recommendation, and more a public service announcement.
You think you turn a page by clicking or tapping something. If you don’t appreciate the heft of an actual book, if you don’t get satisfaction from measuring how much you’ve read by the thickness of the pages in your left hand, if you don’t struggle with the decision of whether to remove the fancy jacket of a hard-cover, if you don’t lament at the subtle but undeniable destruction caused by dog-earing pages, then you are missing out. Reading is more than just an act, it’s an experience.
You have never watched a movie and thought, “That was good, but the book was way better.” Here’s the deal: the book is always better than the movie. That’s because when you are reading a book, you are the director, the producer, the casting executive, the costume designer, and the cinematographer. You get to create every scene and shape every dialogue based on the nuances of tone, emotion, character and setting as you absorb and intuit them. You are given unfettered permission to be the dictator of your own imagination. It will always be a letdown when you have to release your power over a storyline and entrust it to another. If you have not experienced this type of creative disappointment, you’re being too nice to yourself.
You have read this entire post with your finger underlining every word as you come to it on the screen.
Go take a look. It’ll be in a book.
Have a good one to recommend? Please do so in the comments!
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