We all read a lot without even giving it a second thought. We read the news, Facebook feeds, Twitter, Reddit, Stack Overflow, that tutorial you’ve been keeping in an a tab for a weeks, text messages, you name it. If anything, we probably read more than before the interwebs, not less. The actual issue is that as a result of such reading overload we generally read way fewer books, then we used to.
Why does it even matter? I read a tutorial on how to run my own home email server, a bunch of articles about hiking (Guide to hiking the PCT or The benefits of hiking alone), an endless thread on reddit surrounding use of semicolons, a bunch of quick bits on Stack Overflow, and I’ve just plowed through like 40 pages of text before lunch. Isn’t it enough? Well, in my book, this is a lot of reading, but it’s a different kind of reading, and it’s not a substitute for books. Here’s why.
Books are deliberate, well-structured, well-written, thoroughly edited, spell-checked and fact-checked blocks of consumable knowledge, that with any luck unpack so much over the course of just a few hundred pages. That’s the beauty of a book: it’s designed to provide significant amount of carefully composed knowledge. If it’s a fiction book, we are talking about a great story that puts you into this different world, paints it in such vivid colors and in such detail, that you swear you could smell the biscuits and see a sparkle of ice in gardeners eyes (he’s the murderer!), or whatever.
When someone tries to make a book into a movie, it takes great effort to convey whatever there was in the book in a 2-hour film. Because you can’t unpack a good story in such a short period of time! You can’t get an experience of the whole world so quickly, and rightly so! It takes time to read a book, the process is deliberate; it takes effort, it takes experience, it takes work. And you need all this time to process and make this experience your own.
I love reading. It takes time, so I listen to books on my commute whenever I can’t squeeze them into my day. And I can’t describe how awesome it is that people write books! There’s a book sometimes called “A Petition Book” (although “A Complaint Book” would certainly suit it better) by a a Russian fantasy writer Max Frei (pen name), where the main character has the ability to live and enjoy lives of those who complain or whine about their lives. These people don’t realize that someone just experienced their whole future lives without changing them, and all they have left is these same lives but dialed-down. The main character never physically leaves the place of the encounter; he just spends years and years of his “victim’s” life and “returns” it back, gently used: victim’s future emotions will not be as sharp, and their experiences will be bleak and dull, but they will never know the difference. It seems to me, that whenever one enjoys a good book, he or she gets to experience someone else’s life in the same manner, adding years and years of emotions, knowledge, experience and joy to their own life, but without any side effects.
So, for me, reading is a lot like living an extra life, that belongs to a different person. How cool is that? It’s not necessarily a better life, but it sure is different. Can you say that reading a good blog post or an extensive tutorial is something something along those lines? Can you, really?.. Didn’t think so :)
Since books aren’t cheap, I use Libby as my main source for reading material. It allows you to borrow books, including latest titles and audiobooks from your local library. Yes, sometimes you have to wait a week or two for the book you want to become available, but I can totally live with that.