Reading has always been a large part of my life. I have always loved to escape to another world through the form of words, and I have loved meeting new types of people through characters in books. For me, books are important for two reasons, pleasure and education, and the two go hand in hand.
Have you ever walked into a book shop, scanned all the shelves, picked up the exact type of book that you so desired on that day, sniffed the pages, bought it and then devoured the book at home? This is where the enjoyment of books comes in for me, as it is one of my favourite activities. I love to find companionship through the pages, to nestle down with a cup of tea in hand and to let the author whisk me away to a different reality.
Whether this is your ideal way to read, or whether you are reading a few pages every night before you go to bed, we have to ask ourselves, why is reading so enjoyable?
In the current world, we all need a form of escapism, somewhere where we can hide away from the monstrosities of the world (be that a pandemic or a corrupt global leader…). Some genres of books provide this shelter that we need, this protection from the world when it can be so damaging to us. Romance novels are the best at personally helping me do this, as they remind me that the world can hold something so special even among the worst of times: love (soppy this may be, but I also find myself drawn back to these books again and again, and yes I CAN still call myself a feminist and believe that these books are valuable and enjoyable). But romance is not the only genre that allows us to escape: crime, fantasy, thriller the list goes on, but all of them stop the time that is ticking away on our watches, and allows us to watch someone else’s life for a small portion of our own.
What comes hand in hand with this, is education. No matter where these books are set, and what genre they come from, lessons are transferrable from books to real life. If racism is present in a thriller, it can teach us to be more aware of it in our own lives and make us better at being able to identify and then correct it; if a woman is being marginalised in a romance novel it can teach us that our own world needs to be better than that. Books provide lessons to us without us even knowing that it is happening. They are teaching us while we are in our form of protected escapism.
Books may openly tackle such important topics, or they may use a more nuanced approach of embedding them in the way that the character acts, the way they interact or in fact the way that their society treats them. And so, when we take a sniff of the newly bought book, or we trace our fingers along the worn down spine of a second hand novel, we are accepting that we will be transported somewhere else. But, when we return to our very own reality we will have our eyes opened a little wider to what is really happening here on earth. The beauty of books lies in this interconnection between pleasure and education, and the very real effect that it can have on how we live our lives.
Words by Sophie Wilson.
Photo by Dan Dumitriu on Unsplash.