I was talking to a co-worker the other day about a book I’d read recently, and realized how very, very few people I can do that with. In my daily life, it seems like almost no-one reads anything more than a newspaper or a fashion magazine. I only have one person I can truly chat about books with … and yet, being a Capital-R-Reader, I simply can’t imagine going through life without a book constantly at hand, or shelves of them proudly displayed downstairs. I’m proud of being a person who not only reads, but who reads a lot–not just in volume but in variety. I like having an inquiring mind. I like exploring new ideas. I love following an intricately plotted story (the more layers the better). I love BEING a reader and simply can’t imagine what it’s like to go through life without being one.
Am I the only one who feels this way? That wonders at how other people can simply NOT do something that should be so essential? Who feels almost sad that so many people seem content to go through their lives without stretching their mental wings at all?
Can you imagine NOT being a Reader? How does it shape your life? Your perception of it?
How does being a Reader affect your relationship with all those folks who are looking at it from the other side and simply can’t understand how you can sit and READ all the time?
I’ll be honest—this question makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s the assumptions here. The assumption that people who only read newspapers or fashion magazines once in a while aren’t “stretching their mental wings”. As a “Capital-R-Reader” who has found no one in real life who can keep up with her reading, I don’t like the idea that because I read more than my friend Elle, I’m smarter than her, even though she’s an amazing scientist. I watched a short documentary in my history class yesterday that reminded us that our culture’s main mode of communication has shifted from print to image recently, and being able to navigate the brave new world of images—as fans have been doing since the sixties, critiquing Star Trek‘s treatment of say, Christine Chapel—is the new wave of critical thinking. That’s where my distinction lies, when it comes to people not “stretching their mental wings”; not how much or how varied you read, but if you look at the world through a critical lens, no matter what, how much, or how little media you consume. I do wish people would read more, of course, and plan to teach my nephew in the ways of the Force, but the fact that I read more than everyone I know doesn’t mean I’m smarter or better than everyone I know.
That said, of course, the courtesy I constantly try to extend to others is rarely extended in return. (Doesn’t mean I don’t keep trying, though!) As I said, I read more than anyone I know, except maybe loudbookishtype, so people sometimes ask me how I find time to read so much and maintain my book blog. But most people think it’s really interesting; I’ve never met anyone who “simply can’t understand how [I] can sit and READ all the time”, to be honest—in short, I’ve never met Gaston. Anyone who says something like that is either someone I don’t want to continue interacting with or making a joke.
And no, I can’t imagine not being a reader. I don’t even remember not being able to read; as much as I joke that I sprang fully formed from the forehead of Ian McKellan at the age of fourteen, I did spring a fully-formed reader into consciousness. I don’t know exactly how reading shapes my life, because I have nothing to compare it to (to steal an early Mighty Boosh joke). Reading and writing are how I interact with the world, how I make sense of it. I like to think that makes me extremely curious and someone very willing to make time for the things she finds important. And my perception of the world? Well, I do tend to novelize in my head…