Does Reading Matter?

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Why we shouldn’t wait for the classics of our time to turn into movies before we discover them

I think a major reason why so many books became classics in the twentieth century is that there was little else to do back then, but things have changed now. In terms of entertainment, there is so much to choose from. Even those of us who love to read know it’s so easy to drown in a whirlpool of memes and Ten-things-all-roommates-do type videos instead of a book. Who doesn’t want to know what Hogwarts house they would be sorted into? I’d definitely take the quiz to find out what type of cookie I could be. It’s only natural. Sitting down with a book has little chance when we are all sitting down with our iPhones.

If it really is a doggy dog world we live in, then the Internet is a dog treat. I think it’s probably a good thing that science and technology developed at a relatively slow pace because the world would be so different otherwise.

Would any Nicholas Sparks novel play out in 2017 like it did in the 90’s? Would we cry just as much if Noah sent Allie a snapchat for each day of the year instead of a letter? Her mother wouldn’t get in the way, and they’d probably get together and then break up, because let’s be honest, long-distance relationships almost always go downhill.

Maybe help would’ve reached the soldiers at Dunkirk much faster if they could live stream their struggles, and perhaps HONY would organize a fundraiser to arrange transport for them to come back. Or maybe the enemy would use their geo tag to locate them sooner. That is definitely not a movie Christopher Nolan would make, and the 2018 Academy award for best cinematography would go to some other film.

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In a sense, books have always reflected human evolution regardless of what the book may be about. Reading the descriptions of people and places in novels set in different eras is a reflection of how much the world has been impacted by human life.

I can visualize the England of Jane Austen’s novels with just as much color and detail as I can the America of Fitzgerald. The lace dresses, unforgiving corsets and countryside cottages of Austen’s novels gave me an insight into yesteryear’s English life long before Downton Abbey did. Same with Gatsby’s lavish parties, they would never be quite as legendary in 2017 – they’d all be discussing memes over Manhattans.

When I try to think of the great novels of the 2010’s, few come to mind. The Beat poets of the 60’s and 70’s painted a picture of an entire era for those of us who only can imagine what those decades must have been like.

Not that reading a book and watching other digital content is mutually exclusive, Netflix originals TV shows are intriguing, and also sometimes based off books lying in our local libraries. Yes, it is entertaining to watch a digital lookbook on How to style fall trends on YouTube, but if Moby Dick had been narrated by a Youtuber it wouldn’t have the same impact, and we certainly wouldn’t be reading it to prepare for the SAT’s.  I wish we could tag each other in books; maybe there is an app for that I should look up.

I often hear people say that print media is dying, and while that is like taking a blow to the stomach, I just want to defend all the good friends I made thanks to Sylvia Plath, James Joyce and J.D Salinger. Our generation struggles with mental health more than any other generation before us, and books really can help deal with some of that stress. Where social media drains, books nourish.

The great classics of our time are lying in shelves and unchecked out carts of Amazon, and maybe we shouldn’t wait till one of them becomes a movie to have a read.

Aside from looking really good next to your passport and boarding pass in an Instagram photo; a book can really be a great companion to bring on a trip, and also a conversation starter in dull situations.

Imagine being stuck on a flight next to a chatty passenger and having a book to dive into, or sitting across a dinner table with a shy date; you can always start a conversation by asking them about their favorite book/writer.

Talking about books can also help you gauge what type of person your date is. If they say they like to read but haven’t read in a while, you know at least they are honest. If they tell you their favorite book is Twilight, you know it’s time to fake an emergency.

Lots of surveys and studies have indicated that those who read tend to be more kind and empathetic towards others. Books require a little more time and effort and you really have to spend time with the pages to get invested in the characters. It is also possible to relate to the ideas and actions of characters even if you can’t identify with the characters themselves. If a couple decades from now, someone that isn’t even born yet were to ask us about the classics of our age, I hope most of us have a better answer to give them other than reality T.V and memes.

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