I have a confession to make. I’ve kept this to myself for ages, fearing that its reception among my peers, friends, and family may be mixed, if not downright judgmental. I know, it’s uncommon, it’s certainly no longer hip, and it’s neither free nor particularly convenient, but I read books for pleasure. I’ve been doing it for years, and despite what may seem to be the usual individual’s experience, it’s become a more and more important part of my life in college. Two years ago it was Walden and re-reads of The Catcher in the Rye and A Clockwork Orange. Last year (the whole year) it was Infinite Jest.This year, it’s The Old Man and the Sea and V., the latter of which is my present indulgence.
The reason I usually hesitate to inform people of this particular hobby of mine is because, upon telling people that I read for pleasure, I’m often heavily interrogated about it – not about the books, though (feel free to interrogate me about the material of any of the books listed above because I’d love to discuss), but rather about the actual process of reading for pleasure. I tend to get questions like “where do you find the time?” and “aren’t there more entertaining options?” and “are you crazy?” If you, too, happen to also be asking those questions of me from behind your screen, the short answer to them can be found in the last four words of this article’s title.
The real world is stressful. It’s a non-stop action film, but instead of bad guys and high-stakes casino games and Maseratis you have tests and papers and deadlines. Everybody, in my opinion, has got to have some way to disconnect from that madness briefly in order to not lose their minds. Some people cook, some people watch Netflix, some people do yoga. I, personally, do two things: take naps and read. (I’m not going to discuss napping today, but stay tuned because I can almost guarantee I will at some point in the future. I love naps.) As opposed to watching an episode of Game of Thrones or running around the block, I simply prefer to disconnect from my world by opening a book and entering another. It’s, simply put, relaxing. Not to mention, by the way, that some of these books are crazily entertaining and well-written. V., for example, is absolutely mind-bending. Not only does it have some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read –
"Was it home, the mercury-lit street? Was he returning like the elephant to his graveyard, to lie down and soon become ivory in whose bulk slept, latent, exquisite shapes of chessmen, back-scratchers, hollow open-work Chinese spheres nested one inside the other?"
– but it also is just plain ol’ entertaining. Profane, a character in the novel, spends an entire chapter following an alligator through the sewers of New York by himself, pondering the myth of a crazed priest who tamed and created a clergy out of sewer rats when he was convinced that the human world would end and rats would be all that survived. Entertaining. Other-worldly. Bizarre. That’s how I disconnect. I’m 130 pages into this novel and I have no idea what’s happening, but I love it, because it’s so far away from my world (though in a sense it’s also not, but that’s a different blog post) that I don’t care what happens as long as it doesn’t remind me of the work that I need to do and the reality of my day-to-day life.
So to you, reader, I present this challenge: go crack open an old book or a new book or a short story or a poem and forget about your world. Let the author do the driving and let your imagination go along for the ride. I think you’ll find that it’s a lot more entertaining than your memories of required literature in English class led you to believe.