This post is either going to land me on the hate list of all book lovers, or it will totally resonate with them. Either way, I must unburden my feelings. I have kept my silence far too long.
WHAT IF BOOKS ARE BAD FOR US?
There. I said it. Now let me explain myself…
I have loved reading since the moment I realized those symbols on the page actually meant something. Actually, no — my love of reading probably began while I was still in my mother’s womb, hearing her read to me. Growing up, the most effective behavior modification used by my mother was to take my books away (taking the Barbie dolls away was a close second). In high school, I would fake sick just so I could stay home to finish a book. Because let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to learn anything that day if all my thoughts were absorbed by whether or not Darcy and Elizabeth would get together!
Any of this sounding familiar?
So why on earth would this “I can’t survive without books” librarian pose such a question? Let me compare it to my second weakness — FOOD.
We all know what we eat can affect our health. There’s much debate about the details, but we DO know that it’s important to eat a variety of foods and it’s important to choose foods with nutritional value. Filling our bodies with only junk isn’t a good thing. We also know over-eating is a bad thing. This is where my book correlation comes in…
I AM ADDICTED TO BOOKS! AND NOT JUST ANY BOOKS — JUNK BOOKS!
I LOVE reading romance novels. Stories of debonair dukes, plundering pirates, sexy shapeshifters, femme fatales…I can’t get enough! I can easily read a book per day and realize I didn’t eat anything or even acknowledge my husband’s presence. I’ll admit to even being guilty of ignoring phone calls from my mother when caught in the thrall of a good book.
I know. It’s bad. I need an intervention.
Luckily, I have a very supportive family who understand that sometimes I just need to escape into the world of books. As long as I remember to come up for air often enough and keep the household intact, then we’re ok. I’m also lucky to have people in my life who challenge my mind, which prompts me to read things that stimulate my brain and broaden my perspective. When I find myself in a conversation and I can’t think of anything interesting to say, that’s usually my cue that literary stagnation has begun to set in. That’s when I look up “Best Nonfiction Books of the Year” or “What Would Bill Gates Read” and download the audiobook.
So I guess my answer is: Yes, books CAN be bad. But they can also be good. It’s all about balance.
Balance in WHAT we read: titles that make us THINK, that TEACH us something new, that give us a different PERSPECTIVE
Balance in the TIME we spend reading vs living: I’d rather EXPERIENCE life rather than read about it
Balance in our EXPECTATIONS: acknowledge that what we love in fiction isn’t always what we want in reality (a pirate would make a terrible husband, after all).
Reading is one of those joys that we never out live. Books can provide excitement, comfort, empathy, enlightenment, escape — whatever we may need. While I may have a few setbacks every now and then, I believe I’ve found that balance and I hope you do to.
What’s that, babe? You need me to do laundry because you’re out of clean underwear? Hold on, just a few more chapters…
P.S. If you are experiencing literary stagnation, these titles are guaranteed to provoke thought or a change in perspective: Another by Christian Robinson (children’s book), The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni (novel), Life on Earth: the greatest story ever told by David Attenborough (nonfiction), or When I Spoke in Tongues by Jessica Wilbanks (biography).