This writeup is a validation of my respect and admiration for books in general…all kinds, be it fiction, non-fiction, reference, self-help, biographies, guides and even comics.
Here I don’t refer to the e-books or e-copies of novels, but the actual hardcover/ paperback versions of stories and other writings published by ordinary people who just want to tell a tale to the outside world. The more I read, the more I realize that each individual has so much to say, talk about and convey to the person at the opposite end who is giving some of his time to ‘hearing’ about what he/she has to say. Umpteen opinions and viewpoints flow through each piece of writing and it tends to gather an equally diverse amount of reaction from the audience who may either love it, like it or utterly dislike it.
Whether we think that reading a certain book has enriched and informed us, or whether we think that it was a waste of time, it actually matters that we get to know about the thought process of another person. I feel so because after all we as a community of human beings need to understand each other, the way we think and how our experiences affect us. A real society is based on effective understanding of the people who are its elements, and what better way than to put words to paper?
Speaking has its limitations. Obviously, using your vocal power to share your thoughts with other people directly will inform them the message at that point in time, but would it really stay for long, and more importantly, can one go back to listening to the same words again to get a better understanding, unless it is a recorded piece of talk?
With books, articles and journals, you can go back again and again at your leisure to assimilate what the author has put down and further discuss, debate and analyze what you read. You can carry a book around with you anywhere, open it anytime and start reading it without any hesitation or opposition. It is totally up to you to form an opinion about what you read, something which is unique for every person. No two people will have the exact same reaction to the piece of writing.
Talking about genres, I feel that after a certain age it is important to read all kinds of books and not just stories to develop a holistic thought process. As a child, my main objective of reading a ‘story-book’ was to develop my vocabulary and to a certain extent learn about the lives of kids in other parts of the world. Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and C.S Lewis let me into the world of adventure-seeking children and the never-a-dull-moment lives they led.
But of course, later on I realized that there is much more to reading than just that. Fantasy fiction is just one kind of writing. There are biographies and accounts which tell the tales of hardship, poignant accounts of growing up amid difficult situations and the actual experiences of the author that can inform you what reality is like in ways that you don’t know about because you have not led a life like that. These writings just serve to expand your thinking and horizons beyond your four-walled room, as does fantasy fiction, but in a more real way. Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’, Helen Keller’s ‘Story of my Life’ and Gandhi’s ‘Experiments with Truth’ do just the same.
And then, I cannot forget to mention self-help and guide books that help us make our way through the challenges that we face in life, teach ourselves about things we don’t know but are ready and willing to learn about and for which we don’t have to bother others and take up their time! ‘The Secret’, ‘7 habits of highly-effective People’ and ‘I’m ok, You’re ok’ are three titles that fall into the category.
Last but not the least, comics are a whole different and amazing genre of reading that can help one pass time in an engaging and immersive way, specially because they are totally pictorial, allowing us to see the situation in the actual way the author imagines it. There are both children’s comics and adult comics offering a variety of themes and titles to choose from, with no end to new content which brings with it fan-theories and interpretations. Who doesn’t know about ‘Tintin’, ‘Tinkle’, ‘Asterix’, DC and Marvel collections and even the now widely popular Game of Thrones’ official comic book?
What I am basically trying to convey, is that reading is an activity which is as old as time and should remain forever with us. We should not stop the habit and replace it by merely spending unnecessary time on social media, games and other gadgets. The joy of reading a good book and leafing through its pages again and again to feel its worth is precious. However, I am a bit worried that this will come to an end in the near future with new tech-based hobbies coming up every single day that are a much less enriching alternative.