Read!

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By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor

If you’re reading this, you’re engaging in an activity that has entertained, informed and enlightened humans for almost as long as we’ve been walking on Earth. I’m talking about reading, of course. It’s one of the oldest forms of communication in the world (second only to the spoken word) and nearly every culture on Earth does it.

For college students, reading is a big part of life. You can’t survive college without doing it. All our classes require some reading, even the so-called “soft majors” like art and music (Just kidding – I was an art major too, once). And it’s a fair chance you’ll need to do some writing. Reading and writing are just part of life – you’ll do a lot of both in your professional career, even after leaving college.

But what about reading for enjoyment? We spend so much time studying sometimes we forget to read just for the pure pleasure of reading. Here are a few reasons why you should take time out of your busy day to lose yourself in a good book.

Reading expands your mind

Perhaps no other activity stimulates the mind the way reading does. Reading is an intensely intimate experience. When you read fiction, you immerse yourself in a world of someone else’s creation and allow their words to inform your imagination. Reading forces you to use your mind in a unique way.

It is what psychologists call meta-cognitive, or “thinking about thinking.” The writer imagines a world and people and describes them in print, and the reader decodes it and reconstructs it in his or her imagination.

This sounds complex, but you do it every time you read. Reading stimulates the imagination, provokes critical thinking, and expands your vocabulary in unexpected ways.

Reading is good, cheap entertainment

When was the last time you went to a movie? How much did you pay for a ticket? Did you buy snacks? Chances are that flick set you back $15 to $20, unless you sneaked your own snacks in. Maybe you enjoyed the movie, maybe you didn’t. It’s still pretty expensive for a couple of hours’ entertainment.

A book, on the other hand, is entertainment that can be devoured all at once like a fast food hamburger, or enjoyed slowly like a bacon-wrapped filet mignon. It’s your choice. Also, you can re-read passages to derive deeper meaning from them.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a few favorite books you’ve read several times. Each time you read a book you get something new out of it. Reading is good, cheap entertainment that you can enjoy over and over again for different reasons. There aren’t many movies you can say that about.

The book is almost always better than the movie

While we’re on the subject of movies, remember the last time you saw a movie based on a book you’d enjoyed? Did it measure up to your expectations? Probably not. When a movie director translates a book into film he imposes his own vision on it, and it may not meet your expectations. Also, movies always leave stuff out. In the end, no matter how good the movie version is, it rarely measures up to the book.

Print has been around for centuries

The growing popularity of e-readers has led some to question once again whether people will continue to read books. I think books will always have a place and a purpose, because no matter how good e-readers get, books have one big advantage: they don’t need batteries. Of all the communication mediums that humans have used throughout history, the only one that has outlasted all of them is the printed word. Nothing, it seems, can kill books.

I’m not saying this to put down e-readers. They have a purpose, and if you’re a harried student trying to lug piles of books across campus, the convenience of an e-reader is hard to beat. Just make sure to include some light entertainment in your digital library.

You’re going to do it anyway, so you might as well enjoy it

This brings me back to my original point, that you’re going to be doing a lot of reading anyway, so why not enjoy some of it? There’s a ton of good literature out there, from the classics to modern fiction. Why not check it out?

Do you like western crossover fantasy? Check out “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs. There’s a movie version coming out next year, but why wait? If you’re into mysteries, you really can’t do better than a Dashiel Hammett pulp classic or the Harry Dresden series by John Butcher.

The point is, pick up a good book and read it. Go to Half Price Books or Barnes & Noble, and ask the staff what they’re reading. Who knows? You might find something new you’ll like. And if nothing else, it’ll give you something interesting to post in a Facebook status update.

Above all, remember the immortal words of Groucho Marx, who said “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

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