A case to bring back books



Krya Kruger

As an English major, I’m used to people knocking my chosen path in education.  People are constantly calling majors in the Liberal Arts impractical, useless and a waste of money.  While the point of this article is not to advocate for an English or Liberal Arts degree, there is one aspect of an English degree that I believe gives me an advantage: it forces me to read constantly.  

Obviously, one does not have to be an English major to read.  Part of the beauty of reading is that it is an activity that can be engaged in at any time, practically anywhere and with a myriad of possibilities that are bound to appeal to every character. I’m not talking about the kind of reading that includes tabloid magazines. I’m talking about reading stories.  Read novels, read histories, read biographies of the people you admire, read creative journalism that takes you to places you’ve never been; read poetry that invites you to think in a way you’ve never thought before, read poetry that says exactly what you’ve already been thinking. Simply read it all.  

With all of the other mind-numbing modes of entertainment today, reading has been put on the back burner as something that demands a lot more work for the same result as, say, binging your favorite show on Netflix.  While this might be true in looking solely for entertainment, books offer so many other benefits that surpass the entertainment assessment.  

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” George RR Martin said.  “A man who never reads lives only one.” Theodore Roosevelt claimed, “I am a part of everything that I have read.” And Dr. Seuss advised, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more things that you learn, the more places you will go.”  

The truth is, reading creates smarter, more well-rounded and empathetic individuals, improvements all of us could benefit from. Literature exposes one to ideas and perspectives that he or she might otherwise never consider. In order to be a fully functioning human being in today’s complex and global world, a person must be flexible in her mindsets and accepting of the fact that everyone thinks, speaks and lives differently.  I am a strong believer that most of the problems in our global society could be vastly improved with a little more understanding.  

Reading is also essential to the ability to understand and interpret complex theories and concepts.  I’ve heard professors in subjects such as ACS complain that they have to dumb down their subjects in order for students to grasp larger concepts and cite a decrease in reading as the culprit.  And, the more you read, the better writer you will become, and as every college student has heard a thousand times, the ability to express yourself clearly, concisely and eloquently is imperative no matter your career.  

Strong early reading skills in children have been linked with higher IQs later in life and improved cognitive development. While some might argue that this doesn’t apply to adult reading, it is certainly true that at any age, the more you read, the better you get at it, and the better you get at it, the smarter you will be and most likely, feel.  

Reading is to come to know another person, as well as yourself.  Whether you see yourself in a book or have seemingly no relation at all, reading stories reveals the common truths that exist for all humanity.  Stories teach us the ways we can empathize with any one person, the ways we can find similarities no matter the amount of differences.  To remember our similarities is an important exercise in today’s divisive society.  There have been many who have called for unity and empathy as our nation attempts to heal from a particularly ugly election season.  

Unfortunately, it seems to me there are some people today who are simply incapable of empathy, and are ignorant of the world outside their own front door.  So, next time you’re looking for something to do, or you find yourself sitting in a core class like ACS, don’t open up Netflix or resort to Sparknotes, read.  It’s a choice you likely will not regret.