At the end of last month, I believe, the Goodreads group for Tuesday Talks asked us to make a video explaining to the non-readers of the world what we thought they were missing. I had some trouble trying to orient my thoughts into something that made sense in a video, and I figured I’d try a bit later here on the blog. I don’t promise much coherence, but I’ll do my best.
I’ve said many a time that I am truly brokenhearted over the amount of people in the world who say they hate reading. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to think of why this might be, and I’m still pretty sure most of it is the way we approach reading in school. We’re meant to overanalyze everything, reading into every word, and then we need to remember absolutely every detail or else we’ll fail the quizzes and tests. I had trouble with reading in school myself for the same reason. I had a love of reading beyond that from a very young age, though, so I wasn’t driven away from it–but I’ll admit that after high school, I didn’t read nearly as much as I had in the past.
Reading the classics is important, but is it worth killing books for large chunks of people? (Maybe that’s overdramatic, but still.) High school is a great way to introduce amazing books to people; I read FAHRENHEIT 451, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, CATCHER IN THE RYE, and all kinds of other awesome books in high school. I don’t regret that, obviously. But it does make me wonder. I remember many of my classmates just giving up on books. They didn’t care; it wasn’t interesting to them.
I just kept thinking back to the books I’d read. How could they say these books were boring? Atticus and Tom Robinson’s trial? The banning of learning and books? What about any of the other books I’d read? The shadow-worlds of Amber? Middle Earth? Time-travelers in secret bars? Come on, none of this is boring, right?
But how do I express any of this in a form that fits “this is what you’re missing”? How can I express in words, written or spoken, what these people are missing when it comprises most of my life? I’ve been reading since I was two. I’ve been writing since I was ten or eleven. Stories and books have been my life for as long as I can remember. So what are the non-readers missing?
Anything and everything that’s made me who I am.
Missing a way to escape to a new world entirely unlike our own. Missing characters who can speak to you just as much as anyone you meet in person. Missing plot lines that stay with you far past the last page. And yes, could the argument be made that movies do much the same? Sure, but in a movie you’re handed the pictures. There’s no work on your side to imagine what’s going on; that’s not a bad thing, just not the same thing.
Books are cathartic, they’re distracting, they’re thought-provoking. I don’t want to believe that we’ve been entirely driven away, as a culture, from thinking about anything beyond what we are shown directly. I want to believe that imagination, beyond those of us who are already writers and the like, isn’t dead.
So what are you missing, non-reader?
Everything. My whole life. The lives of millions of other people, both fictional and not. A billion stories, realistic and not. An entirely different way of handling the world.
What aren’t you missing?