Reading isn’t fun? Surely you jest

Emmett Fitzpatrick

How do I follow up a column about 50 Cent performing on our campus? I thought I’d take a step back and instead write on a topic a tad less sexy than G-Unit and Jay Wright on the same basketball court. The topic, sigh, is reading. Yes, reading – the much-maligned activity that is on the verge of extinction.

Long ago, my uncle told me that reading is the best form of entertainment. At this time in my life I was watching “Saved by the Bell” religiously and playing “Madden ’94” on Sega Genesis for about four hours a day, so I dismissed his claim with a simple nod and went back to Zack saving Jessie from the world of prescription-drug addictions. Twelve years later and not much wiser (I still long for TBS to replay “Saved” at a reasonable hour), I see where my uncle was coming from, and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

As a word of caution, this column could begin to enter the so-called “World of Nerds,” as I may start sounding more like a bitter old English professor than the bitter young English student that I am. Hopefully, however, you may gain a new perspective on the value and enjoyment that accompanies the act of reading a novel, short story or work of non-fiction.

Anyone who knows me knows I value the art of watching television and nearly anything that happens to be on the magic box at any given time. Why, you ask, would I completely betray my love of the visual arts, a love I share with most college kids, for the seemingly archaic practice of reading? I’ll tell you why – there is nothing more satisfying, enjoying and enlightening than reading a novel from start to finish.

People who want to sound smart usually give the popular line, “The movie is never as good as the book” and then proceed to spend another $9.50 the next weekend, avoiding the library at all costs. In fact, some movies adapted from books are better than their written counterparts and vice versa. As a whole, however, books offer much more insight concerning characters and plot that only a select few movies come close to matching that depth, and these movies are instantly labeled as great.

The first two “Godfather” films are so good because they move with a pace similar to a novel, with different scenes adding more and more to the characters on the screen. After watching these movies, my level of satisfaction comes close to the level I feel after reading an enjoyable piece of literature.

The evolution of popular culture has left reading in its wake, so to speak, with the advent of the internet and things like high-definition television. Heroes of modern sitcoms like Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza are glorified for their abhorrence to reading books, while other characters who actually enjoy reading, like the “Bizarro Jerry,” are made to be the bad guys or at least the dorks that no one wants to hang out with.

I’ll admit that reading a book outside of the Quad isn’t the best image a guy would want to cultivate when trying to attract girls, but it’s not the end of the world to be labeled as someone who actually wants to expand his or her mind the old-fashioned way.

I cringe a little when I read on Facebook that someone’s favorite books are “The Da Vinci Code,” “Kite Runner” or any other obvious choice that has been thrown down our collective throats the last couple of years. Still, it’s a start – I love reading “Da Vinci Code” and other popular novels sometimes just as much as the books that are considered “classics.” I cringe more when someone lists “I don’t read” as a favorite book. I cringe a lot when someone lists “I don’t have time to read!” on his/her social network account. Don’t have time to read? I can guarantee that if you just gave reading a novel with some interest a chance, you would find the time to read it – maybe in between episodes of “Deal or No Deal” and “Date My Mom.”

I’m not sure why reading has gotten such a bad name over the years. I could not imagine a world without the Internet or TV, and God knows I’ve spent a lot of time on both over the years.

Still, there’s nothing better than reading a good book, any book, at any time. They’re not all tedious treatises like Augustine’s “Confessions” that may have turned you off to reading freshman year. Don’t know where to start? Try “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway. Then tell me reading isn’t fun.