Written by: Amrit Moore
This is a quote I came across whilst mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, and although a tad dramatic (okay maybe quite dramatic), it made me smile because of the feeling it was trying to capture. There is something quite magical about bookstores, and libraries for that matter, most likely because for those of us lucky enough to grow up near one, it was the place where so many adventures took place, at a time when our imaginations most run wild.
Personally, I just like the sense of familiarity and security entering one brings – libraries have been those pure places where you don’t feel out of place, and don’t feel obliged to be there for a particular purpose, by that I mean there is no need to actually purchase anything so you can just sit there and enjoy. Just like a local park, except they tend to be quieter and are indoors.
When I think about it, for me this feeling of belonging is one that is continuing from childhood. I spent a significant amount of my time, reading one thing or another, and visiting the local library every chance I got. Honestly, the amount I bugged my parents, leaves me now marvelling at how they managed to stay so patient. However, this love for books was also encouraged externally at points when growing up – my schools had rules that a book had to be borrowed at all times for you to read during allocated “reading time”, summer challenges with rewards were advertised at local libraries, Dress Up As your Favourite Book Character for World Book Day was always a fun shout and at the end you’d even get a mini £1 voucher to take home all of which were significant efforts being made so that reading was more accessible for all.
The future of reading
There seem to be growing concerns surrounding the digital era we are in today being that that due to our increased amounts of screen time, we are reading less and so we are no longer reaping the benefits associated with it. In fact 1/3 of adults don’t read for pleasure. (The Reading Agency, 2015) I feel however that whilst levels of screen time is a different matter, our access to stories has not necessarily changed. Technology has only transformed the medium we process them in, and in some respects has even made it easier. The Kindle for example, means we have access to an unlimited number of books compared to just the one or two we could carry. It also removes the barriers for people who don’t live near a library, or have difficulty independently moving. After the recent hype over certain books including The Girl on The Train, I feel the industry of writing is still thriving and is not about to suddenly disappear. I think we can however make a more conscious choice to read, as it is something that is easily let go after we start prioritising different interests (personally guilty here for watching too much TV) or just argue we’re too busy. It is all too easy to forget how great it is to bury yourself in a good book!
So why do we enjoy it so much?
It’s not just escapism, although that often is the primary motivation with the worlds it opens up away from your own problems. Reading a book widens our knowledge without us even realising, with several additional positive health benefits including reducing stress by 68% and reducing symptoms for depression and dementia. It also improves on social capital between younger people, and builds empathy so we can form better relationships with others (The Mission Daily, 2018). The art of understanding a book, is a creative process – we have to think freely and the level of engagement and what we get out of the process depends on our imagination. Books can feed the soul they say.
I think what’s also interesting is how we choose to remember certain story lines or certain moments years later. Maybe it’s our favourite quotes that we use to pass on wisdom or the mindset our favourite characters have that we channel to get ourselves through difficult spots. Perhaps it’s the understanding we gain when coming to terms with difficult characters, so we can be a little more patient when conflicting with people in real life. What I’m trying to say is although stories might not be completely real, it doesn’t mean they hold no value or are just “nice stories”. We choose what we get from them, and only do that by opening our minds. In a world where we experience so much tension, open minds might be what we need. So next time you’re near a library/book store, pop in to inhale that goodness and pick up a book. Treat yourself, and your soul.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts on the matter in the comments or recommendations for books that you’ve enjoyed!