We’ve all been there: it starts off with one bad book from a thrift shop (that we force ourselves to finish because we don’t give up on books). Then it’s a popular bestseller that didn’t live up to its hype. Before you know it, you’re three or four books into a nasty dry spell. You’re ready to give up hope until – finally – you find a book that is engaging and dynamic and entertaining. You’re hooked. And the world changes ever so slightly to commemorate the occasion:
You re-remember what it’s like to get lost in a book.
When you’re reading a mediocre novel that you just want over already, you’re constantly aware of how far you are in the book, and how far you have to go. You’ll think things like, I just read ten pages, which means I’m 25 pages away from the halfway mark. The worst part is that you’ll think these things in the middle of a scene, right in the thick of the supposed “action” of the story.
You’re also constantly aware of the outside world. Did your phone just go off? Maybe you should fold your laundry. Is there a new show on your Netflix? Did you reply back to that email yet? The distractions are downright welcomed, because it means you’re no longer trudging through the story.
With a good book, all of that falls by the wayside. You finally remember what it’s like to lose track of time, sounds, and sensations. All that matters is what’s going on in the world built by the author, and it takes a lot of energy to return to the real world.
Faith in your love of reading is restored.
The first thing you lose when you are in a reading dry spell is your reading schedule. There’s always something else you can be doing instead. You have to force yourself to sit down and read, as if it’s a chore. And – like a chore – you declare yourself done after the minimal amount has been accomplished.
After a while, you genuinely begin to wonder if you’ve lost that love. Are the books really that terrible, or are you just no longer a bibliophile? You miss the days when you carried your book around with you everywhere (even before e-readers), reading “just a few more pages” every chance you got. But now your book sits dormant on your bedside table. Now your book is just something you begrudgingly read for five or ten minutes before calling it a night.
With a good book finally, in your hands, you realize nothing has been lost yet. All you needed was the right book and suddenly you’re back to toting it around with you everywhere, using any lull as a chance to get back to reading.
The internet (finally) loses out.
Everyone seems to be in a losing battle with the internet. We’re glued to our computers. We constantly check Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on our phones. We Google anything that pops into our minds — and Google directs us to something that is guaranteed to waste our time.
Think of all the things we could be doing instead of being online: all the productive activities that go on the back burner because there’s just one more link you need to click.
A good book is one of the few voluntary activities we do that can somehow trump the internet. Do I care what Sarah is doing on Facebook? Do I want to look something up on Wikipedia? No: the only people I want to check in on are contained within these chapters and the only thing I want to find out about is what happens next.
Simple joys are reintroduced.
In our over-scheduled, instant-gratification, latest-and-greatest-phone-app world, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to sit in silence, curled up on a couch or in a bed with a book in hand. It’s even easier to forget it when you haven’t had a reason to curl up with a book for any period of time. There’s always something else we could be doing, some metaphorical high we could be chasing.
Reading forces you to be still. And, in that stillness, the simple, silent things that disappear in the chaos of life reemerge. It can be anything – watching the clouds pass, the feel of the sun shining through the window, or just the ability to not do a gazillion things at once.
Your life suddenly gets narration.
The beauty of a good book with a strong voice is that, before long, you start filtering the world through said strong voice. The narrator of your book becomes the narrator of your life, and day-to-day things suddenly turn into descriptions, expositions, snarky observations – even real-life dialogue gets contained within imaginary quotation marks. No wonder so many avid readers are also aspiring writers.
You want to go back to the bookstore.
A few terrible books can make a trip to the bookstore or the library feel like a trip into guaranteed broken promises. It makes you leery of the recommended books section (and forget about taking your chances on a random book in the shelves). You’ve learned the hard way that an interesting synopsis and engaging first chapter will mean nothing if the author can’t follow through.
Once you’re knee-deep in a great book, all you want to do is go back to the bookstore. You want to wander the aisles again — and you finally want to give that random book in the back corner a shot. You remember why reading is such an important part of your life.
You remember why reading is such an important part of your life.
Reading is so many things: it’s cathartic, it’s inspiring, and it’s insightful. But when you’re reading nothing but terrible books, it’s only one thing: tedious. Finally getting a good book in your life reminds you why you test the waters with unknown books in the first place. Reading taps into what makes us tick in a way that other forms of entertainment just don’t. It makes us think and rethink. It gives us perspective. It reminds us that language is powerful and beautiful and capable of so much.
We read because — while a good TV episode might stick with you for a few hours and a good movie might stick with you for a few days — a good book can stick with you for life. Reading affects us, and it’s why we’re willing to take a risk and pick up an unknown novel. And we’re willing to keep trudging on ahead until we finally hit a new and exciting book, which will start up the cycle all over again.
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