Do you have a hard time concentrating? Are you constantly struggling to find that word? Do you forget things? Do you always feel stressed? Does boredom plague you? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you fear that you have low EQ? Well, I have the cure for you. No, you do not have a mental illness, so stop trying to self-diagnose yourself on webMD. All you need to do is READ!
Scientific evidence suggests that simply picking up a book and reading can alleviate everything I mentioned above while providing you with hours of entertainment. It encourages brain neuroplasticity, enhances cognitive skills, and even strengthens cardiac function by increasing blood flow to the brain. Binge-watching Netflix does none of these things. If you’re reading this, you probably know all that, but as I continue to embark on my writing journey, I can’t help but lament.
As an author, the times are tough. I find myself dreaming of producing a novel twenty or thirty years ago when people actually read. It is no coincidence that those familiar names from the glory days of reading always find their way to the best seller lists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans reading for pleasure has decreased by 30 percent since 2004. This is just one statistic. If you want an even grimmer picture, read this article here. The red flags would be frantically waving in any other industry, especially when the competition in the market is increasing. It is not a good time to put out a novel, and it is a struggle to get people to give it a chance when you compete with their god- the all and powerful television. Americans spend an average of four hours a day watching TV, with 50-60+ year-olds wasting more than six hours a day in front of the tube. The same data shows Americans spend about an hour on religious activities, hence the comparison. As for reading? The average is approximately 20 minutes, and again, it’s decreasing! Ugh.
The computer age sprung to life when I was an adolescent, and I was a teenager during the second golden age of television (2000’s). I remember a time before we were slaves to electronics when everyone read. I had shelves of books growing up. My favorites were my mother’s novels when she was young, like The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and the complete 1st edition paperbacks of the Lord of the Rings series (including The Hobbit) with the covers designed by Barbara Remington. I have early memories of my sister reading to me before I could read myself, especially the Choose Your Own Adventure series like Supercomputer #39 by Edward Packard (god, I loved that cover). The passions that make me the person I am today, are all because of books. Now, I devote virtually all my free time to writing, gave up movies, and I personally haven’t watched television in years.
My grandparents, too, were avid readers and always had a book nearby. When they passed away, they left behind boxes of their personality- each book a fragment of who they were and what they loved. During my maternal grandmother’s last moments of life, she told my mother that she was on the Jubilee Trail, referencing her favorite book by Gwen Bristow. This book, with well-thumbed pages and missing its cover, was on the table next to her deathbed. How poetic is that?
Books are magic, and nothing has elevated our species more than the ability to read and write. They elucidate the human experience, give us knowledge, transfer thoughts, bring the dead to life, and help us explain our universe. Books provide us with hope, joy, sadness, love, excitement, and any other emotion you can imagine. They go where we go while also being able to transport us to places we can never go. Have you ever watched a movie and said it wasn’t as good as the book? There is a reason for that. Visual storytelling will never compete with the human imagination, and cramming a book-length story into two or even three hours without substantial cutting is impossible. Heck, even a multi-year TV series has to leave a lot of the story on the page and off the screen (Game of Thrones, for example). Will it be entertaining? Certainly. But, will it give as much value? No.
So if you find yourself frustrated, unfulfilled, anxious, not able to concentrate, alone, bored, or whatever, pick up a good book and exercise that brain. It will help! There are no harmful side effects, and books are damn cheap! There are millions of us authors out there offering you all the hopes, dreams, and fantasies you can imagine and plenty of those you can’t. We aren’t giving up on you, so don’t give up on us!
What are some of your first book memories or those that impacted your life? Leave a comment below!