So what’s the big deal with books? I mean, really, who needs books when you can google something, get a bazillion answers in a hot second and pick and choose the articles to read? Isn’t that essentially what a library is for? It just trades in giant tomes of knowledge instead of succinct info-bites. And in this day and age, who has time to read? Efficiency is Master. Get it done yesterday. Work smarter, not harder. Do more—be more.
Reading allows you the possibility of hearing other conversations, other versions of history, other insights into the past and imaginations into the future. Reading a book takes you deeper, farther, faster. This seems counter-intuitive. Doesn’t reading a blurb on the internet get you there faster? Sure, it will get you to the end of the article faster. A blurb may give you a nugget to chew on, but a book will give you a feast. A book will give you nuance, it will give you other books to think about and explore, it will give you dimension, it will give you process. It will show you, if nothing else, that there are rarely, if ever, two identical perspectives on any one issue. It will show you how to recognize, relate, and reconcile myriad identities and insights. In short, an article will give you one answer. A book will give you a tangle of ideas without a hint of an easy solution.
Think you can understand race relations by reading 1,000 words on the subject in an article or watching a two-hour special on television? Nope. You can start there, but chances are you need a lot more to get a fuller, informed picture. You can read books of fiction, non-fiction, racism around the world, racism locally, history, memoir, poetry, and on and on and on.
How about women? You think you’re going to get the key to a woman’s head by reading a couple articles in Cosmo? I’m here to tell you: not a chance. Maybe you aren’t even interested in the romantic sort of relationship, but for the love of family, what are you going to do about your mother!? Maybe you have a friend who keeps falling for the wrong kind, but won’t listen to you? The right book could give you broader understanding, hopefully some reassurance that you’re not the only one, and a starting point for advice that gets you off the hook. “You know, I was reading in a book the other night about a girl who had the same situation and she…”
You saw that special on House Hunters International in some exotic location and wonder what it might be like to live there? Didn’t you hear something on the news about that place? Good or bad? Think it was true? Common? Can’t afford to go there right now but wonder just the same? What are legends or stories in that part of the world?
Been stuck on a Disney rerun of all the Princess shows and wonder if there are love stories for adults that have stood the test of time? Wonder if there are stories that explore emotions other than love? Stuck in a rut of superheroes vs. villains? Any stories of people achieving something extraordinary without superpowers involved? Could you?
Find yourself flipping through channels and numbed to everything available? Despairing of another day exactly the same as the one before?
Books can do something about that.
Of course, there are times when you don’t need to know everything about all things. Or don’t want to know all those things. Magazine articles, newspaper articles, online articles, tweets, status updates, blog posts, and Snapple lids are useful. And they’re good. They give you a teaser, a taste. They present you with an issue or focus or new idea and let you nibble that bit for a while.
If they taste good, like chocolate, you might want more. A lot more. So you might go to a book or two to taste them paired with other ideas. (This metaphor is going to flop shortly, but I’m going to barrel through.) You might also realize that you’ve had too much chocolate for a while and now want to taste something else. You go to your wholesale distributor of news: social media. You sample the daily free news that you peruse and you find a delicious obscure morsel that demands scrutiny. And off you go to your local bakery for a sampling of all the purple cookies made with prune juice and eggplant extract to see what you like best. And suddenly you find that you’ve eaten a lot of books. Did I lose you there?
Reading books pairs sides and entrees and meats and veggies and desserts and appetizers and fried stuff with cheese and caviar for delectable, never-ending, nourishment for your whole being. You are trying new foods, savoring favorites, exploring common staples in myriad flavors, and maybe even creating your own spicy combinations. The possibilities are endless.
So read on! Or eat on! Probably both.
What else are books good for? How has a book or many books been a part of your life? And, since I powered through the metaphor, what foods do you like to pair with your book reading?