I recently had a conversation with one of my fraternity brothers about the last time we had read a book for pleasure. For me, the answer had only been a couple of weeks. Over breaks from school, I make a list and try to read as many books as I can. My buddy was shocked when I told him. He said he hadn't read a book for fun since middle school.
We soon asked some more of our friends the same question. Answers varied, but the general consensus was the same; it had been a long time since a book was viewed as more than assigned reading. Although those who read for pleasure seem to be an endangered species, it's more important now than ever that we read. Here's a quick list of some of the reasons why.
1. Reading makes you smarter.
There's research out there to suggest that reading not only makes you a smarter person (duh), but also a more empathetic one. Reading helps improve your vocabulary, your memory and works areas of your brain that aren't activated by reading 140 character tweets or skimming through a news article. In an age of clickbait headlines, polarizing political views and information that is generally dumbed down, why wouldn't you want to become a smarter person? The world we live in is one that lacks empathy.
I certainly fall into that category more than I would care to admit. If reading a book can help me better understand the experiences, struggles, and lives of others, I'd be missing out on a great opportunity if I chose to forego it. Confucius once said, "no matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance." How true that is.
2. It gets you off of social media.
A couple months back, I downloaded an app that tracked how much I was using my phone throughout the day. I figured it would be a lot, but the numbers staggered me. I had been averaging four hours and 36 minutes a day of screen time. I was picking up my phone to look at notifications more than 100 times a day.
And that was just on my phone, not to mention how much time I spent on my laptop or watching TV.
It's a common problem that millennials have grown overly accustomed to. That's the reason why I've deleted several of my social media accounts off my phone. Not only do I feel happier now that I don't have the urge to spend hours scrolling through my Instagram feed, but I have more time to spend on doing things that are genuinely productive. Like, say, reading a book.
3. The feeling you get when you finish a book.
After you finish a book, regardless of the length, you feel like you accomplished something. Much like working out, I always feel better about myself after I finish reading a couple of chapters from a book. That's simply not the case for a lot of tasks we find ourselves doing.
I guess I feel a little accomplished when I finish binging a Netflix series, but it's not the same proud feeling I get when I set down a 500-page book after finishing it. After you've finished the book, you have become familiar with a whole cast of characters, you've followed a plot, and most importantly, you challenged your mind. That's a great way to spend your free time.
4. Books are better than the movies. (Most of the time).
Don't get it twisted, I'm a huge movie fan, but when you stack up a book against the movie version, almost every time you would say the book was better. The Shining? Good movie, great book. Harry Potter? Solid movies, fantastic books. The Giver? Bad movie, good book.
You can play this game with a million different variations all day long. Books offer more detail, easier access to the character's thoughts and you get to imagine things for yourself instead of someone coming up with them for you. That may be work for some people, but it gives you even more satisfaction as you work your way through the story.
Look, I get all the reasons why people would rather spend time doing things other than reading a book, especially college students, who are already required to read more than they'd probably like for school. But the benefits of reading stretch far and wide.
Next time you have the urge to binge a new show or scroll for hours on your favorite app, head to the nearest bookshelf and pick up something that interests you. You may find yourself having a lot more fun than you thought you would.