Clara Snoyer is a freshman English major.
In this day and page, it can feel impossible to imagine reading as a part of our daily lives, especially with exams, assignments, work, and other commitments. So, imagine it’s summer: finals are over, you’re at your favorite coffee shop or stretching out on the beach, and you’re finally able to pick up a good book. But, would you even read then? How can you finally motivate yourself to crack open a book so that we aren’t indefinitely waiting for the perfect time, place, and conditions to do so? I’m not sure when I’ll ever be able to get through all the books filling up on my shelves from impulsive bookstore hauls — but I chip away at them every night and day when I get a chance.
But what’s the purpose of reading during the little bit of downtime you already have? Our lives are so hectic that it’s much easier to watch a Netflix series than spend time getting to know a novel. However, as an English major and a hardcore book nerd, I am a strong advocate for reading and how narrative and imagination are incredibly important in shaping us. Whether or not you’re an avid reader, we all have a book in the back of our heads or in our Amazon carts that we heard about from a friend or want to read before its movie adaptation comes out. So here’s how to fit it in and why it’s strongly in your shelf interest to stop and smell the prose.
Firstly, reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Research shows that reading fiction helps improve our brain function, capacity for empathy, and cognitive imagination. In addition, what and how much we read also dramatically affect how well we write. When I’m reading something, I start underlining interesting sentences and wordings I like. Then, when I’m writing a paper or creative piece, I end up not only remembering the wording from the book, I remember the conceptual and tangible effect of how the writing intrigued me as a reader.
I personally love it when a book helps me escape reality, inspires me to write something of my own, or just plain entertains me if I’m on a flight, riding the bus, or just bored. Reading is an intellectually engaging activity, so as somebody who likes a mental challenge, I always feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after I finish a book. It’s a feeling far more rewarding than how I feel after passively staring at a screen for two hours, which is the need to get up and engage myself in something more worth my time.
So is screen time a waste of our free time? I don’t believe so since I genuinely enjoy the time I spend watching an hour or two of Netflix a week. However, I’ve realized that I use screen time as a procrastinatory time buffer so I can figure out how to actually deal with my stress and workload later. But what’s the point in unproductively spending our time procrastinating if we could be using the same amount of time to engage our minds in some more constructive and imaginative escapism? While I admittedly watch Netflix some days when I can’t deal, on days that I can, I find a spot on the lawn (now that the weather is so nice) or turn on my reading light before bed and incrementally work through my novel for pleasure. You might think I’m looking at this through prose-tinted glasses, but if you’re interested in picking up reading again, developing a routine for when we can physically do so actually helps build self-discipline and consistency in several areas of our lives.
I hope you’ll give in to this Shakespeare pressure and consider picking up a book for fun. Exercising and indulging our imagination through reading is incredibly influential to our humanly creative mentality — additionally, reading offers a multitude of benefits from improved writing skills and stress relief to expanded brain function and intellectual knowledge.
The human condition is shaped by narrative and connection, so the least we can do for our kind is listen to what the authors and poets of the past and present have been anxiously waiting to tell us. So even if you’ve Alcott on your plate, you’ll never have a Dahl moment if you decide to come out of your Shelley and — knock on Atwood — make time to strike Wilde the iron is hot and bring reading permanently back into your life better late than novel. On your bookmark, get set, go!