Before TV was invented, people used to find entertainment with an ancient art that is still popular today: reading. Throughout history, books have been the perfect escape from reality for many people. While reading, a person can live in a world where the main protagonist has powers, a dashing love interest, or is just barely surviving the era of yellow fever.
Books are largely still popular today because of the details they feature that movies and TV shows are not able to include. There are no limits for books, unlike movies or TV shows, which have time limits. Books can run for 1,000 pages or for 100 pages. It’s the story that matters in a book and the amount of detail needed to write a good one takes precedence over time constraints.
Books also contain world history and highlight how humans have culturally evolved.
Neil Gaiman, the author of American Gods, Coraline, Good Omens, and many more well-known novels, said, “Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over.”
Moreover, books create connections with strangers and strengthen bonds with acquaintances, friends, and family. By reading the same or similar books, someone could have a conversation with someone he or she just met, or someone he or she has known forever.
Elise Pudwill, ‘23, said “A lot of people who read similar things or different things can talk about it. It gives you a conversation starter. People go to conventions for books for the sole purpose of connecting with other people and getting to really immerse themselves in a world that the book has created.”
Reading also teaches people by educating them on diverse topics.
Pudwill said that “reading is just a good all-rounder because you learn so much from reading like lessons or random facts you never thought you’d have to use, like picking a lock, or how high the Eiffel Tower is or the terminal velocity of a squirrel.”
Reading is the key to education. Books can remind people that they are not alone. Reading is also a good way to kill time, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic at an all time high in the United States.
Even if the characters in the books aren’t real, people can still make connections with them. For example, Percy Jackson and Katniss Everdeen, two beloved characters, have become culturally integrated into the younger generations.
Books can also add a little spice to your life.
“Fiction builds empathy,” Gaiman said. “Fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world, and people it and look out through other eyes. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.”
According to Gaiman, the most important thing a book can do is inspire.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten,” Gaiman said. “You’re finding out something as you read that will be vitally important for making your way in the world. And it’s this: the world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different.”
Gaiman is absolutely right. Things can be different. Thousands of lives can be changed with an idea that is shared with the world. Books are one of the biggest influencers of society. Perhaps books can inspire the necessary changes needed to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Even if books are not the cure for the pandemic, they still provide entertainment that can satisfy the desires of many people during this difficult time.