Thursday, August 30, 2012

Does reading make us more human?

Readers.  Writers.  We’re all gluttons for books—both new and borrowed, aren’t we?
Regardless of pending appointments or deadlines, if we happen to see an interesting cover, more likely than not we can’t resist the urge to pause and browse. Sometimes, we even go out of our way to spend hours visiting them at book stores, at the library, or around the web just to see what’s been recently published, or what our favorite characters have been up to. Sometimes we may even come across a book that makes us proclaim to our nearest book-loving neighbor, “This is the next Newbury!” Or: “This is the next NYT bestseller!”
What’s wonderful about sharing these proclamations is that our nearest book-loving neighbors are never hard to find. Readers and writers can always find company, whether it be among the shelves at the bookstore or in the comments and chats of our favorite websites and ezines. And if we happen to be holding a book or an ereader in public, more often than not someone will pause to ask what we’re reading.
So I ask, What keeps humanity coming to books?  Turning page after page? 
Perhaps it’s because reading a book is like opening ourselves up to an emotional caress, regardless of whether the book is humor, suspense, or chick-lit-light.  In books, we can step into another world where another person’s problems are solved within the confines of a safe environment. An environment contained on bound sheets of pressed paper, dressed with ink (or the soft glow of a tablet). An environment where the conflicts faced by a character we’ve grown to like and understand are eventually sorted out, but on our own schedule.
Perhaps what is most appealing about reading is that we benefit from viewing the story and its conflict with an empowering perspective. We have a bilateral view of two worlds—that of the character and that of our own. Coupling our own experience with that in fiction gives us an advantage in focusing on a character as they move down a path toward resolution.
This dual perspective broadens our ability to empathize—with the character, with others, and ultimately with ourselves, particularly when we go on to carry the story within us. In essence, perhaps we become more human through reading, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.
If this is true, could reading be the key to any amount of success in our lives? Is it possible that one of the most relaxing, quiet, nonintrusive activities could be the most empowering?
Perhaps it’s time to explore that option for ourselves, or rediscover it. Then again, I never need a reason to pick up a good book. How about you?

NOTE: Today's post appeared first at the Blogging Authors blog. Giving these peeps a big wave and wiggle for having me as a guest! >

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