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Call me a book fascist if you want to, but I think that everyone should read books. Sure, maybe they’re not useful for certain people in particular professions. However, they’re much more than tools for gaining knowledge and learning practical skills. There are not only non-fiction books, there’s fiction too.
Learning is fucking awesome. That’s why I and tons of other people love reading non-fiction. But novels are amazing too. Some of us prefer only using books to gain information or learn a hobby or skill, which is fine. People are different. The rest of readers either like both novels and non-fiction, or just fiction. That’s cool too. I prefer switching between both, but I understand why people love novels.
There’s something comforting about the feeling you get when you open up a book and start reading it. You’ll realize that there’s something fascinating that you didn’t know, acquire a new skill, or travel to an exciting new world in your mind. That’s why novels are great. You can get lost in imaginary characters who seem totally real. Empathizing with them, you experience emotions through their thoughts and environments through their senses. You get immersed in the protagonist’s struggles, and get caught up in a suspenseful plot that hopefully rises to a crescendo before the final gripping page.
Some people are very smart even though they don’t read books. They get all their knowledge from the internet. Or they have a job with a high skill level, like engineering or being an electrician, and they don’t like reading. That’s all good. I admire intelligent people regardless of what they do or how they get their knowledge. But I really think that they would be even better if they read books. In my opinion, it’s good for people to be different. The internet can teach you a fuck of a lot. However, I don’t think that it provides you with the same level of information as books. Maybe you can learn everything you need to know about a new hobby or skill from Youtube and Wikipedia. But if you want to thoroughly educate yourself about ideas, or the history of any practical knowledge, books are probably better.
People put a lot of time and effort into making educational Youtube videos. You can watch and hear conversations between intellectuals too. Almost everything can be read on Wikipedia or copious other sources. But academics frequently spend years compiling and explaining the most fascinating and relevant aspects of complex knowledge. Books can provide the equivalent of an introductory course in different kinds of philosophy, biology, history, anthropology, physics, and every other field. The internet generally doesn’t give us captivating writing that teaches detailed, focused and well-organized information. A skilled non-fiction author can make learning phenomenally exciting. For example, my fairly decent understanding of the science behind human behaviour comes from reading a dozen or so amazing books about it.
So why not use the internet AND books to learn? You won’t be dumb if you only get your information from the internet, as long as you don’t spend all your time watching cat videos and porn. Entertainment and orgasms are important, but so is learning. If you already learn a hell of a lot from the internet, you’ll be even smarter if you read books.
Novels and plays used to be the only form of entertainment and imaginary stories. You couldn’t go to watch a movie at a theatre, or check out the newest ones on Netflix. We couldn’t “Netflix and chill” because it didn’t exist. Maybe everyone laid each other down by the fire instead. People had to pretend that stage actors and characters in books were real. The captivating visuals we see in many blockbusters today had to be imagined.
Yes, some ancient philosophers like Socrates thought that reading and writing would ruin our brains by damaging our memories. Before books, philosophers had to compose and memorize entire speeches in their heads. Socrates apparently believed that people would lose this ability if we relied on writing and reading. He was wrong. Pretty much everyone without mental disabilities is capable of composing and memorizing speeches in thought. But most of us don’t do it because writing makes it so much more convenient. This led to a phenomenally increased amount of science and knowledge. How many people do you know who compose and memorize speeches?
However, there are professions like politics that require memorizing speeches. I bet that they often get written down. But all kinds of public speakers like teachers and comedians address crowds without constantly glancing at paper. Actors have to recite lines from memory without looking at scripts, once they’re on camera. Not everyone writes everything down either. Jay-Z is known for not writing down any of his raps.
Let’s also remember that books were not only the precursor to movies. They were the original internet. For the vast majority of human history, you couldn’t Google anything. Writing is a very recent historical advent too. It’s just been around for much longer than the internet. The idea to put words on paper may have existed for thousands of years, rather than decades. Before Google, books were only available to rich people at first. People like Alexander the Great went on epic voyages to find them. His Library of Alexandria was the biggest stockpile of knowledge in the world. Historians still don’t know about all the valuable writing that was lost when it burned to the ground.
Until the Protestant Reformation, there was a low literacy rate among poor people in particular. Other than books being expensive, they had to be painstakingly copied by scribes until the printing press was invented. This new technology helped increase literacy because books could be mass produced. Martin Luther was the first person to translate The Bible into the language of the people, German. Before then, priests read it aloud in Latin, with their backs facing the congregations. So average people would stare at the priests’ backs while they spoke in a language that no one could fucking understand. Sounds fun, right?
People being able to read the bible was part of the Protestant Reformation. There was a lot of religious division, controversy, and dramatic change. Other books were printed as well, and cheaper manufacturing costs drove prices down. So for the first time in history, the public had access to all kinds of books. To make a long and complex story short, it all spiralled from there. Everyone who has internet or library access can get plenty of books for free, and literally millions for small costs.
Maybe I’m just being arrogant about wanting everyone to read books. I would never want to make a law about it, or anything like that. I try to be very libertarian about how other people live as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. But I truly believe that reading books makes you better. They’ll make you even smarter than the internet will, and a good novel is more captivating and rewarding than a movie. I love films. But you can’t get inside characters’ heads in them, feel what they feel, and experience fictional realms through their senses. Books are in some ways closer to virtual reality than movies. They engage not just your eyes and ears, but your thoughts and imagination too. (Although, you obviously don’t hear books unless they’re audiobooks.) You don’t get the same level of evocative detail in a film that you do in a phenomenal novel. Also, a great non-fiction book can be the equivalent of an introductory university course, for way less money than tuition fees. So if you don’t do so already, READ BOOKS! They have the power to transform your life.
Originally published at mindgasms.theblogpress.com on May 23, 2018.