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Books, and therefore reading them, has been one of my great passions in life. Movies, TV shows and music are all fantastic pieces of media but reading has given me a completely different world to explore. Through your whole life your brain develops, with each new exterior input from the real world building a new sensory connection in your mind. I’m not going to talk about the particular neuroscience of reading and literature, mostly because I’m simply just not qualified enough to do so, but if we just start at the fundamentals of reading, i.e. words, I will build up from that. The ability to communicate has been one of greatest traits in animal evolution, from the bee’s waggle dance to a wolf’s howl or one of Shakespeare’s plays - they all have one function - to convey and describe information to others. The written word has been one of the most powerful tools that humankind has ever developed; an online video or a TV program might bring far more content, but they also lacks imagination you are seeing (or hearing) from these is pure information directly from a 3rd party, it skips large chunks of the cognitive functions that your brain has to offer. Every time you read a story, you’re creating images in your own head and they become your images unlike those that you get in a film or a TV show which are directly planted into your visual cortex. This is a passive activity were as in books, everything you retain from them you are doing so actively. This makes you more engaged with the topic you are reacting with. This activity firstly reacts with what is this word? Then it asks how it is related in context to the rest of the sentence, paragraph or the whole page. It all connects together in your brain and this is the major goal of any successful author, to make the reader enjoy this process.
One of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates, has and still spends a significant amount of his life with his nose in a book. I’m not saying that this is the only reason for his success, but knowledge is power and books are filled with knowledge. Every page, sentence or word you read the more you understand, it’s like going for a run in your head.
Another reason why I love books, achievement. For example when I finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho or Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” I always felt that I had enlightened my self further even though they were definitely not as content heavy as a David Attenborough Blue Planet documentary or a free YouTube Computer Science Lecture from Harvard. I feel proud of myself whenever I’m reading a book.
I don’t know about you, but from since I’ve been a child I’ve always found reading as a good way to get to sleep. Whether it was me being fascinated by this new book - that has a magical world with goblins in banks and a wizardry school that you get to on a train from Kings Cross - which my mother saw at the top of the best children reads in the Evening Standard one evening on her way back home from work all those years ago, to me reading a novel on my Kindle now, I’ve always found reading as an exceptional tool to allow me to have a good nights sleep.
People as a whole treat each other in the way they communicate with each other. A large proportion of this comes from their vocabulary and their ability to use it. The quicker or more insightful you are, the more likely you are to be given a job, a second date or more successful in any other different type of events that you might face in your life which engages with other people. Literacy gives you a strong second hand in these regards.
People say a picture writes a 100 books. I think this old quote still holds even in this new, modern digital era, but it still opens questions that no picture can answer. One of the beautiful things I personally find in painting or graphical design, two skills which I personally have to accept that I suck at, is that some of the pieces that I see are just jaw dropping beautiful. How were they able to produce such magnificent work, what did they use, how did they shade it so finely and so on and so on. They however never really give you a time line, and certainly not a conclusion. Books, on the other hand, tell you everything and all you need to know to write them is the English language.
Learning anything new I always find exhilarating, especially as someone who has had to relearn pretty much everything again. I’m delighted every time I’ve leant something new, even if it is was something I didn’t even had to really think about before. The problem with learning a skill is that, unless you return to it relatively frequently, overtime it will fade away. Books are perfect for either relearning something or keeping yourself on track.
Creativity is everything if you want to write a good story. Lots of people say to do this you need a plan, write a spider gram for your book or something, I disagree. I don’t know what J. R. R Tolkien did before he picked up his pen for the Lord of The Rings but I personally think the most powerful tool that an author has is their mind. Sure you probably should put some notes down while you’re writing the book but this whole palaver of using pretty software types and colourful notebooks to make sure that everything happens in the way it was all planned for kind of kicks it in the delicate parts of the freewheeling mess that creativity loves.
Reading a book, especially if it’s a novel, automatically raises invisible barriers around you. Your focussing on the content that you’re reading and EVERYTHING else around you has to take a step back. Reading allows you to refocus your mind and helps you to forget your worries and other such nonsense, at least for a moment. It allows you ignore everyone else around you, it allows you to create your own world.
Travelling is a pain, especially if you’re going a long way. I personally can’t read while I’m on the road, either in a car or on a coach/bus (although I know there are many who can) but on the train or on the tube I’ve found putting my nose in a book ( or my mobile) very satisfying. Don’t miss your stop though.
As a pretty introverted child I found solace with books. I would like to say I’ve become a far more extroverted individual as I’ve grown up but, mostly due to events which were completely out of my control, I still reach for a piece of literature rather than actual people to help me to understand the real, modern world.
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