“The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.”Voltaire (1694 – 1778), attributed, Best Thoughts of Best Thinkers
For some people, reading is always a joy.
They would choose to sit and read a book over every other activity. It’s effortless- a pleasure, not a task. Then there’s everyone else. Reading is difficult. It means setting aside an allotted amount of time where your full attention is required for this one task. It requires finding some silence and commanding your focus and concentration. When we find something difficult and laborious, it’s not something we naturally gravitate towards or end up doing a lot of.
Why should we read, even if we don’t particularly like it?
We don’t usually force ourselves to do other activities we don’t enjoy so why should this be any different? Similar to physical exercise, reading is useful and necessary because of what it gives us and what it takes for us to participate. Many people read, not because they particularly lust after the activity of reading, but because they are pursuing information, knowledge and expansion. A library of books has a whole new world within it. It’s this want for improvement that spurs many people to read. But there are various ways to gather information, how is reading any different from watching a movie or documentary for example?
“Books are faithful repositories, which may be a while neglected or forgotten; but when they are opened again, will again impart their instruction.”Samuel Johnson, 1775, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland
Firstly, it’s fair to say that books have more to teach us than any other media.
The written word has been around a lot longer than any digital media and provides us with some intimate accounts/ ideas from potentially thousands of years ago. More to our point however, it takes different levels of concentration and commitment to absorb different forms of communication. It requires more from us to read a book than watch a movie, because reading isn’t something most of us now do regularly. It’s also a different way of absorbing information. In reading a book, our imagination is called upon to build us a picture from the words we read. We are actively participating rather than passively absorbing.
“By reading we acquaint ourselves in a very extensive manner with the affairs, actions, and thoughts of the living and the dead, in the most remote nations and in the most distant ages; and that with as much ease as though they lived in our own age and nation.”Isaac Watts, 1741, The Improvement of the Mind
Like we did earlier, it is very useful to think of reading like a physical exercise.
Very few people always enjoy a physical workout, but they do it regardless. They push themselves to do it because they know that they are investing in their future self. This is equally as true with reading. We may not enjoy delving into our book every day, but in times to come, we will have developed an extremely useful skill. We will have stimulated different parts of our brain, sharpened our discipline and focus, and most importantly, expanded our knowledge. And just like a workout, we always feel so much better after reading a great book.
“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island … and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.”Walt Disney (1901-1966), attributed, The Miracle of Language