The Sunday Magazine: Why I Still Read Books

I was challenged to one of those Facebook things where you post a picture of an album cover, favorite movie scene or book cover. It was the last one which I responded to. As I’ve posted a new cover every day this week I realized reading books is still one of my favorite activities. Which got me thinking a bit more about why that is so.

One thing I’m afraid of is thirty years from now a lot of this generation might not be able to fulfill this challenge. Reading a book has begun to seem equivalent to writing with a pen; rarely done. For all that the information revolution has improved things, book reading might become a long-term casualty. I have asked a few of the people in my life, in their twenties, what the last book was they read. I’ve received mostly looks like I asked for them to remember what they did last summer or the one before that. What makes me look forward to reading?

The one thing I have enjoyed is the transition from printed page to my tablet. The print is always the right size and perfectly lit. I can read anywhere anytime now. The one thing I miss is my regular trips to the bookstore browsing the new release shelves. So many books made it into my hands because of an attractive dust jacket or compelling come on in the interior flap of that dust jacket. I’ve gotten over that the same way I got over album covers informing my music choices by sampling. Almost any book will let you sample a chapter or two online. It is fun to read a sample chapter followed by hitting download and continuing. All of that is just convenience. There is an even larger reason I still read books.

It is because there is no other art form which immerses my imagination more fully. When a historian takes me to a specific era I am there, surrounded in my head by those people. When a science fiction write puts me on a new planet it exists informed by the words on the page. When a detective novel discovers a body I’m on the case, too. When a writer creates an entire fantasy universe it becomes my fantasy universe.

When I sit down to read I am not multitasking. I am solely doing one thing; reading. It is why it is so immersive. Even the best video games can’t provide the same experience. Reading outpaces all of that. I hope that I am not part of the last generation which sees the value in that.

Mark Behnke

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