Read THIS First ..

Read THIS First..
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Happy Reading!

Friday, June 12, 2015

On reading and readers...

Reading's been a vital part of my life so far. Sometimes it seems as if I'm overstating the fact, seeing how there are others who read as much, but they don't talk about it all the time. There's something more to it than what I see or what you see or what we know. I know there is something in that activity that is inherently 'me', something that makes me feel complete and at peace with myself and the world. It defines who I am, who I was and who I am going to be. When I close my eyes and try remembering life as a child, I find myself either playing with my kid brother, excited about the games we invented and planning to put them to use, or going about in the narrow park with overgrown grass, wondering how and where to put up our 'playhouse' (which never existed in reality, of course, because in my imagination, it would be made of mud, and no grown-up would help us). Apart from these, the moments of flashback I have of that time nearly always include a book in my hand.

There was that one time a friend had come over to play, and by stroke of luck, I had chanced upon a book by Enid Blyton, a blue hardcover full of stories, a book I'd forgotten I ever had, so much that it was almost new. I remember being completely glued to the book. The grumpy friend had left soon after. Another time, I wasn't as excited initially when I saw a boxed set of Harry Potter books (1-4) instead of the Barbie I'd asked for, but I remember being glued to Philosopher's Stone till 11pm that night when mom had to wrench it away from my grasp because I had school the next day. All in all, I've lived a humble life as a kid, not being interested in anything other than books. It's trickled down as I've grown-up. I still have little patience for movies, TV shows, gadgets, fashion stuff, shopping, etc. Of course, I love certain movies and shows, I'm technologically inclined and have preference for simple and elegant fashion. I'm not 'backward' in most senses, but I've found out a secret.

Now, this secret comes at a price. There was this video/documentary on J.K. Rowling I was watching last night where she said, 'For someone to love a thing, it has to be loathed by someone else.' So my secret here might seem like a load of bull to some, but some would definitely get it and hopefully appreciate it too.

It's this: Reading gives us much more than a good grasp of language. In fact, language is only one of the useful things you might get (because not every reader can write well, either). More than that, it gives you life. Really, if you are a reader who is capable of experiencing happiness, satisfaction or pleasure in a book, you're open to knowledge about life itself. That knowledge helps a reader make better sense of the world, have more feelings of empathy and tolerance, learn to appreciate the beauty of things, be more cool-minded and accepting. Reading also gives a reader answers to questions he might not even know he had, and the irresistible urge to grow as a reader. It increases knowledge about things that would blow your brains if you read about them. Do not trust TV shows and such forms of entertainment for facts, because they're largely based on entertainment, and would most probably be giving a one-sided perspective. 

How do you grow as a reader?
You experiment and read books beyond your comfort level, gradually, slowly. You have to let it happen on its own with just the tiniest bit of prodding, because if you force anything, you're going to hate it and there, that's the end of it. Reading is also sensitive. I have certain genres I cannot even glance at, all because I have deep-rooted biases because of wrong time experiment or maybe a bad book or maybe I really don't have much tolerance for those topics anyway. But really, I've grown as a reader more in the past couple of years than anything else. When you grow, you read and love and appreciate those genres you earlier didn't touch. A growing reader is also a wonderful resource because they insist on sharing their feelings with their friends and making them read too. They crave sharing of books, so much so that they start getting annoyed when others seem indifferent.

How does that help you?
You start looking at life beyond the ordinary, you are more optimistic and calm when it comes to real-life problems, though you might become that kind of person who draws into a shell and comes out only when it seems safe to do so. That's all right. You have the right to feel the way you do.

More than that, you'll realize that your place in the world is minuscule, you'll not be self-obsessed because you will be humble enough to realize you're small, yet powerful enough to influence other lives. Yes, you will not only know that you have that power, you will also believe in it and you will be driven to work for causes beyond those that carry you to materialism and selfish benefit. Tell me, don't you feel a tinge of sadness or pain when you see a poor kid? Don't you feel bad about wasting money when someone living in a construction house cannot even have enough food to survive? Readers tend to feel more strongly simply because they are capable of immediately putting themselves in that position and imagining what it's like. Readers and non-readers might take the same action to help others, but when it comes to feelings, I think readers personally feel more. Non-readers tend to be more practical in their approach. 

Readers will know their life beyond what they see, because they've read so much that they are able to connect more at the level of their feelings, and it is not easy to ignore a life so drastically different from yours. You would want to do something, and you, the reader, will figure something out even if it is a small step. Would you not?

What can you do?
As a reader, the least you could do is to motivate people around you to turn into readers themselves. It might sound obvious, but the fact is that it is very difficult. My brother G, despite living among piles of books, is not an avid reader. Some people just find it difficult, specially because, sad as it may sound, this basic activity is introduced to them as a pleasure activity quite late in life. By that time, most already have a set of hobbies and activities they have found solace in, and reading might not be in that list. Can you force anyone to read? NO! If you constantly pester them, they're going to rebel even more and thus, be as far from the idea of reading than they were before. You need to then do it in a subtle way, so that you're not forcing your opinion on anyone, because let's face it, a lot many wonderful people have survived without reading too, but they seem to have something else, a sense of understanding of the world, which is rare.

So if you need to do the deed and contribute your bit, I'd suggest you do it subtly. If a friend points out how he/she thinks it is boring, politely and excitedly tell them how it isn't boring. Talk about books and reading whenever the opportunity comes up. Show an interest in anyone who says they've read a certain book. Strike up conversations. Ask them what it is about, and if they enjoyed reading it. Tell them about the book you love or the story in an easy language. If you know what interests them, try to recall if you've read any book on that theme, and recommend it to them. 

The best way to get people to read is to make books available to them. I recently came across this article that talks about how soldiers from WWII were given affordable copies of books by publishers, how it affected them, and how drastically it changed the reading and publishing industry in America. That step, the offering of good quality books in affordable formats to soldiers in wars, was a step not only to create sales but to provide the many benefits of books to many, many people. 

Tell me, how many bookshops are there in your locality? I don't mean those that sell school books, nor the stationery shops that keep a handful of kiddie story books. I mean proper book shops. If you live in a modest part of Delhi, I'll bet on one shop within a radius of two kilometres. I do not have any shop near my house. In fact, I do not have anything book related in my neighbourhood. Except schools. Oh yeah, there are loads of schools - I could give you ten names just to serve as landmarks, but no book shop.

As a reader, make it your responsibility to spread this habit. I will not say that the internet is the cause of decline in book readership, because with the internet, people DO get reading material readily, even if I would think that most of it is crap. Still, I do not believe in the 'at least they're reading something' ideology either, so I make small efforts to share articles and reading pieces I feel must be read. You could do that too. Move to books. If you are a reader, completely move to books! Gift books to your friends, ask for books if you're being asked for a gift choice. Be the best friend's children's book resource. Forget being considered a nerd. It's for everyone's benefit. 



  1. Strangely, I don't have very much to say this time. I just agree with you on all the things you mentioned here. The realisations and the thoughts/recommendations and how I would be happy if there are more people like you who read and encourage others to do too.

    Also, I loved reading this. Thanks for writing! ^_^

    1. Hiya. Thank you. I'm glad you agree with me. If you feel sharing is a good thing, I'd suggest you share your books and recommendations with everyone around you, too! :)

  2. Ah... This post captures all the emotions so well. You know the biggest reason why I am so. Much into books? , it's because I get to live so many lives , I get to think from different perspectives and to me that's magical. :)

    1. That is magical indeed :) Glad to know you feel that way.


I would like to hear what you have to say.. :)


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