In the three years since the words “Covid-19” or “Coronavirus” entered our vocabulary, what we considered as the status quo has changed tremendously. Before, during, and after the pandemic, the world and our sense of normal have changed. With so many changes, it becomes difficult to orient oneself. But if there is one thing that can help you reorient yourself in times of change, it is reading. Although you may feel that you already do enough reading for school, reading a book for nothing more than pleasure still has a place in our modern world. And despite the pandemic and its lockdowns being over, there are still lessons we can learn about the importance of reading in our new state of normal.
Reading’s Place In The Modern World
As our world has become increasingly mediated, the position of books and spending long hours reading into the night is at odds with the quick and easy media culture that is increasingly becoming the norm. As the media we use shortens our attention spans with the prospect of endless scrolling, a simple book that you can fit between the palms of your hands, cannot help but feel like a thing of the past. However, this stark contrast between reading and our current media consumption is what gives it a place in the modern world.
Reading requires peacefulness and focus, something that can be difficult to find in our loud world.
We tend to gravitate towards media that does not require us to think too hard. A fatal flaw we can already detect in a book. Especially early in the morning, or after a long day of thinking hard at university, reading requires a lot of cognitive willpower. Yet, reading, and by extension books, stimulate our minds in ways so unlike other forms of media and it requires a lot of cognitive processing and comprehension just to understand what we see on the page. Beyond the written words that are right there in front of us, there are also the meanings attributed to those words by the author, and this is followed by our own thoughts, opinions and our interpretation of what is actually being said.
Reading requires peacefulness and focus, something that can be difficult to find in our loud world. Especially, during a period, say, three years ago, when a crazy pandemic came about. With all that fear and anxiety, focusing on something as complex as reading would have been difficult to do. But, there were also those that were able to adapt to the pandemic. They either maintained or developed new reading habits. For these people, this hectic time was all the better for reading.
Seeing The Pandemic Through New Eyes
During the pandemic, it was easy to fall into mentally repetitive and exhausting routines that were hard to break out of. It became a challenge to do something new with our time and ourselves as we struggled to maintain or establish new connections with people. Reading was important at this time as it gave us a break from the tedium and allowed us to experience something new and exciting.
For as resistant as we can be to reading at times, the benefits of it are astounding. Whether it is stress relief, increasing empathy, or practising cognitive skills, there is a lot we can gain from reading a simple book. A good narrative is something we can find ourselves getting lost in; temporarily becoming a part of that story ourselves, tumbling through the rabbit hole until we come out the other end.
The things we thought we knew about the world and everyone in it are challenged when you read.
Even if the story we find ourselves reading is fictional, to read means to enter a new world. A world that we see through the eyes of another person. Seeing how a character navigates their struggles, relationships and feelings of their life, even though it may be considered fantastical when compared to our own. The things we thought we knew about the world and everyone in it are challenged when you read. By reading, one can learn to be more understanding towards one another if we are willing to change. Books allow us to form social bonds with one another in a safe environment, both with the characters of the story and with others that we share the experience of reading a book with.
All this is to say that reading gives us some of the things we found ourselves without, during the pandemic, and made us feel a little bit more ‘normal’. Allowing us to explore new ideas and places, experience wonderful sensations, and give us even a sliver of hope that lets us know that we do not live on in vain.
Conclusion: To Read Or Not To Read?
In the brave new world we find ourselves in post-pandemic, the status quo has already reoriented itself and the habits learned during the two years of the pandemic are finding themselves being unremembered. Though having our lives back is no small thing, and certainly, something not easily given up again, we should remember that reading will always be something that can enhance our everyday existence.
With all the reading done for school, it can be challenging to find the willpower to read for pleasure during our already busy days. But believe me when I say that it is worth the effort. We will regret the time we spend on social media, but it is much harder to regret reading a book once you have picked it up. In your palm, between your finger and your thumb, is a world just waiting to be explored and experienced. And even if you have not picked up a book recently, all good journeys have to start somewhere. Wouldn’t you agree?
Cover Image: Jaredd Craig
Editor: Luca Rietkerk, Mila Macrander