Reading is, in many ways, one of the great equalizers of life.
It is no accident that so many countries use literacy rates as a measure of the wellness of their society. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid-1400s, he quite literally revolutionized the world in a way that almost no one had matched before. The widespread availability of books and the information contained within their pages gave the average person an unprecedented tool to access and explore the world’s wisdom. Knowledge truly is power, and books are one of history’s greatest all-time game changers.
Given the extraordinary potential that books have to shake the very foundations of life and open one’s eyes to limitless horizons, people today might stand to benefit enormously from repurposing at least a small portion of their daily downtime to the act of reading. There is plenty of reason to think twice about how to spend your next lazy afternoon around the house, so hopefully actively thinking about the benefits of reading will get some of us to finally make your way through that book we’ve been putting off for years.
1. The Medium is the Message
Let’s face it, every format has its unique aspects that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Radio can’t give you what TV can, TV can’t give you what a live concert can, and neither of them can give you what a book can! Even if a particular story from a book has been adapted into movie format, you can never get the same experience from simply watching the plot play out on screen as you can from getting into the minds of the characters on a level as deep as the narrative in books offer. You could watch Crime and Punishment’s Raskolnikov murder someone on the big screen, or you can spend pages and pages following his every thought as he agonizes over whether or not to commit the crime. Either one can make for a thrilling experience, but two different experiences nevertheless. The experience of reading adds a level of depth to a story that cannot possibly be replicated in any other format.
2. That Takes Talent!
Language in and of itself makes for a uniquely interesting and creative way of conveying information. That may sound obvious or bizarre, but is actually quite profound when appreciated fully. When one has no visual or auditory aids of any kind and can use only words–that’s right, letters strung together on a piece of paper–to construct an entire imagined reality, it truly makes for something exceptional. An author’s ability to play with common ideas in our collective human experience as well as the ambiguity of ones in our individual imaginations can provide a very fun and enjoyable process of interpretation and meaning-making. In other words, seeing worlds come to life through an author’s word choices can get you in touch with deep thoughts and feelings. This ability to connect to another human being’s mind and deepest emotions through their creation stands to add to what a book already has to offer.
3. Weapon of Choice
So much of what Western civilization, or any civilization for that matter, is built upon is found on the pages of books. Classic written works of philosophy, science, and the arts have been the primary vehicle for expressing the ideas of minds ranging from Cicero to Aristotle to Jefferson to Einstein, and everything in between–passing this canon of wisdom down from generation to generation. The writings of history’s greatest minds form an ongoing chain of idea development which all incorporate and build off of what those who came before them had to say. It’s one thing to hear about these people and their ideas, but to actually see how they play out in their own words is to reach a whole different level of understanding and appreciation for what they were about and why they played the role they had in human history. Beyond that, none of these individuals of their ideas have existed in a bubble–they all share the bandwidth of our same world and therefore all have to relate to one another to a certain degree. History’s great ideas are all in a kind of dialogue with one another, across time and space, in what can be viewed as a web of genius that anyone can tap into. But in order to tap into it fully, one must actually engage directly with the platform that the dialogue and thought process exists on–and that platform is books. If you want to reap the rewards of these people’s gifts, you need only to bother to pull the tool they left you for accessing it off the nearest shelf!
4. Health Above Wealth
There are also many benefits to reading beyond the fun and interesting information that you will acquire through doing it. Studies have shown that spending hour after hour staring at a little glowing screen until you physically can’t take it anymore might not be the ideal way to end your day. Take it from me–your brain, your eyes, and your energy levels will all thank you if you cut out all electronic gadgets beyond a certain hour, and end the evening curled up with a nice book instead. This not only gives your body a better transition from day-mode to a sleeping state, but takes your mind off all the normal things you have to worry about too. I mean, which one of these sounds more conducive to getting a good night’s rest: thinking about a fight with a loved one until your tossing and turning tires you out completely, or putting all that aside for a bit to enjoy the shenanigans of Huckleberry Finn or the glamorous parties of the Great Gatsby as you shuffle off to dreamland?
So let’s do ourselves a favor. We have the whole world at our disposal sitting on our bookshelves. Try opening one of those books up sometime and just giving it a go for a couple of hours. You’ll reap plenty of benefits and, believe it or not, you might actually have some fun too!