Tag Archives: Reading

I Don’t “Read” Good Books.

Yes, you read that right. I, Rebecca Lovatt, don’t read good books. Sure, I’ve stated that books are good, exceptional, fantastic, wonderful, or whatever other words I may have used in reviews, and that’s true, they are good. I just don’t read them.

Or rather, it would be more honest to say I don’t consciously read entire books. I have yet to finish a well written novel where I didn’t read any of it. Perhaps I will come across such a book where that’s possible one day, but that day has not yet come. (As a side note, if you believe me to be talking about audiobooks, it is my absolute pleasure to inform you that you are in fact, wrong.)

Think back to your favourite novel. What is it like, reading it? Is it just many words on many pages? Or is it an adventure? Stories, characters — friends, lives lost and friends made? You don’t love the words themselves, for while the words creates the world, if those same words were put into a scrambler, they would be meaningless. It’s the authors job to make sense of such words, and to place them just so. Transforming letters and symbols into magic, distant lands, friends and enemies you’ve never met.

When we read great books, our world and our imagination are transformed. Within those hours that we’re engrossed in a story, we’re no longer in our beds, on the train, or wherever else you might have been. You’re in Hogwarts, freeing Sirius Black, in Westeros, exploring beyond the Wall, or your on the road to Tinue.

So when I say I don’t read good books, I mean exactly that. If a novel is truly great, you can’t *just* read it word for word. At some point — and the exact moment can be hard to pinpoint, the story begins to play out. No longer are you reading about the characters, you’re watching them as they rise in their moment of glory, and as they fall and hope seems to fail. You’re watching as empires collapse, and waiting with abated breath as Light fails and darkness takes reign –urging the protagonist on, unwilling to believe that their journey could all be for naught.

There’s sadness too, as stories come to a close, knowing that you’ll never again share a new adventure with those beloved friends, that you will never see if they have a chance to live that quiet, happy life they so desired, or reign over a Golden Age, living happily ever after until the end of their days. There’s solace too, in knowing that those fantastical worlds can always be revisited, even if it is only for a while — going back to memories, knowing what is to come yet discovering more with each reread.

I must apologize, I didn’t intend for this post to be a spew of sentimentality of reading. There is a purpose to all of this, I assure you.

This all stemmed from my the question I hate most: “What’s so good about this series?” or a variation thereupon “What makes this book good for you?” I know I’ve done a post on “What Makes a Book ‘Good’?” looking back at it though, that post doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, when looking at the grand scope of fantastic literature, and I would be a fool if I thought otherwise.

In that one post, I talked about description — my opinions on which have not changed. Description is one of the key factors in what makes a quality book, for some people at least, though as it was pointed out to me some months ago, that there are those who completely disagree with that sentiment. I was emailing with an author back in December and he commented that he doesn’t waste time with descriptions as he finds them boring, but instead focuses more on the human qualities of his characters. To many people, that may well be the case. I’ve read many reviews where readers have complained about the abundance of description in particular novels (the first that comes to mind is Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series) where to me, it just fits and seems perfect.

Looking past my love for description — as it would be better if I didn’t just make another post lamenting my love for it. When we read a book which drags us in by the scruff of our neck, and refuses to let us go until well after the last page, there’s so much more than any one thing which allows it to do so. Whether it’s just the story itself, the characters, the world, the premise, or the opportunity to escape our lives for an afternoon. There’s no one thing which makes a book “good”, and in my opinion any story will fall flat without having multiple aspects working for it, whatever it is they may be.

The best writing — the best words are not the ones that are consciously seen on the page, they’re the ones that worm their way into the heart’s of readers, the ones that find themselves in cherished spots in open minds — leaving a lasting impression. They’re the ones that make the book more than just words on a page. They’re the ones that transform books into stories, and stories into the homes of imaginations; the destination of wandering minds and hungry souls.

The Benefits of Reading

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Growing up, we’re all encouraged to read at one point or another. Whether it be Shakespearian plays, out school textbooks, autobiographies or the classics, books played a role in our lives growing up and for a lot of us, they still do. Why is it though, that in many countries around the world, reading is something that’s enforced at a young age? What benefits do we get from reading the books we’ve come to love and enjoy?

I could list a hundred or so reasons on why reading is good for you, and why it’s so important to read… Though, reading brings something different to all of us, and we all perceive books in a different way. In August of last year, Linda Poitevin wrote a post on the subjective side of reading, stating that “readers are going to take from a story what they want (or need) to experience. What one reader sees, another might miss altogether…only to draw from the story something the author him/herself may never have intended.” (Link to this post can be found here). I have to agree with her fully on that, as we all learn or take things away from books that someone else might not even notice.

Whether we’re reading books to relax, escape, or learn; they give us a window into the different facets of human existence that we might not otherwise get to explore. They open a new world away from our own sorrows and fears, letting us escape from reality for a little while; giving us a bigger perspective on life, the universe, and well, everything (to borrow from Douglas Adams). We can learn from the characters — both the antagonists and protagonists and apply those lessons into our daily lives; do what we can to keep from making the same mistakes, avoid the same fatal flaws, learn to approach problems and challenges in different ways. Reading not only broadens our perspective of the world around us, it gives insight to who we are, and how we can apply that to better ourselves.

In the case of non-fiction books, they allows for a more concentrated delve into a topic that’s filled with an abundance of information, it’s something that you can focus on (provided it’s what you have an interest in), and learn loads of fascinating things about. For example, did you know that in space there’s a gas cloud with enough alcohol in it to make 400 trillion trillion pints of beer. That probably isn’t a fact you’d find in the pages of Lord of the Rings or I, Robot, but it’s still interesting. (Try singing that song — 400 trillion trillion pints of beer on the wall, 400 trillion trillion bottles of beer). There’s a wealth of information out there, amazing facts that most of us can’t even begin to fathom. Some of that information, if not all, we can learn here on the internet, we can see things that friends and different sources post on websites like Twitter or Facebook, and it’s great. However, while reading a tweet with an interesting fact can be enough to pause and make you think, if you don’t take the time to research that tidbit of information, that sentence that you paused over for a moment, then you’re not going to learn anything.

Fiction allows us to understand and better know ourselves, and the people around us; helping us overcome challenges we may face that can correlate to something we’ve read. While on the other hand, non-fiction takes us deeper into the roots of human understanding and knowledge. Find a book on a topic that interests you, whether it’s Freud’s approach to dreams, medieval philosophy or linguistics, there’s so much out there for you to learn. One thing people don’t seem to understand these days is that you don’t need to go to university or college to become an expert on a topic or to learn about it. Find a local library, discover some new authors, there are so many fountains of knowledge out there, just bursting to be read. It’s all out there, sitting on a piece of paper, waiting to fall into your hands and be read.

The stories we read about all have different morals and lessons behind them. Almost every fantasy (or science-fiction) story will have some sort of grievance between races, or classes, reading those stories give us a glimpse into other cultures and into lives of people who are in circumstances so different from our own; or perhaps their lives have more in common with ours than we’d care to admit. Books are the doorway into different worlds, and every world has its lessons. Those worlds — they consist of exceptions; for every rule, there is an exception. That applies here too, if you think there’s something you can’t do for a certain reason, well that shouldn’t stop you from going for it anyways if that’s what you want. There’s always an exception, and who’s to say that can’t be you?

One of the more obvious benefits of reading is that it helps us to develop our language skills and expand our vocabulary.  When we read books, (depending on the size/reading level) there’s typically 10-20 words the average reader will not know the meaning to, by reading the sentence and seeing the usage of the word; it helps to not only teach us the word — plus, if you search up the word or you encounter it later, you’re more likely to learn it quicker. Read to your children, read often, read books over and over. Read when they’re infants and too young to understand; read books filled with words that their growing minds have yet to learn. Read books that will make them ask questions, or that make you ask questions. Read to learn, and read to teach.

Read to develop your cognitive functions, and your skills of deduction. Going back briefly to the developing language skills and vocabulary; in fiction, writers tend to invent a lot of words and terminology, while it may be stinting to newer readers – or those who just don’t read often, it’s something that avid readers become more familiar with and have an easier time in understanding them. Also, in books such as mystery novels, the deduction and improved cognitive development really does play a part as you’re able to pick out the clues, hints and red herrings the author leaves along the way; creating an experience which is much more engaging and worthwhile. Especially while you’re in school, this is a vital factor. Reading often can greatly help you succeed in your education.

Entertainment. Reading is a great way to reduce boredom, allowing your imagination and creativity to flourish. While you relax and read, you allow your mind to be engaged and feel some of the many emotions that let us know we’re alive. It’s like meeting new people every time you open a new book; people that you’ll laugh at, care about, come to love — then cry over, maybe you’ll hate them for a while, grow frustrated and roll your eyes when they do or say something stupid, then come to realize how much you cared about them when they get sick, injured, or even die. Books have a way of becoming like family — the characters, our friends. They’re always there for you, and you can always visit them again; reliving past experiences, going through the same emotions as before. They’ll never leave, or change and become people that you no longer recognize. Characters remain the same fascinating people they were when you first met them, they develop and grow the same ways they did the first time you read their story. They are an escape, they are there to be used, and they are there to prove your insight into yourself, as well as into others.

Our mind creates these vast worlds for us to see with the help of books, it gives us a chance for insight… Why do we read? What do we get from it? There isn’t one firm answer to these questions, but for every page that’s read, for every adventure spanning hundreds of pages, there will always be something for you. A lifelong friend, something to curl up with on the couch for comfort, to show us even in the darkest of moments that there is hope, and there is always more to be discovered.

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