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April 7, 2014 / Jett

Off-Topic: The Joy of Reading

Over the past few decades, whenever anyone has asked me what my favourite book is, my answer has been Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Part of my reasoning is that it’s a great novel. The other part is that I have a very limited pool of books that I’ve read to draw from. Take away the books I had to read for academic purposes (including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and I could count every novel I’ve read for leisure on one hand. The last book I read for fun was Angels and Demons almost a decade ago. This shortcoming of mine has been something I’ve been self-conscious about for a long time.

The act of reading itself is not the problem. I’ve been an active reader for as long as I can remember. However, the reading I enjoy takes place in much smaller chunks and in very different formats. As a kid, I loved reading video game magazines. When my family first connected to the internet in the mid 90s with a 14.4 modem, I spent hours every day online reading about things that interest me. If anything, that love of reading online content has only gotten stronger and more life-consuming through the advent of faster internet, RSS feeds and a smartphone that allows me to keep up with everything as it’s happening.

But novels are a completely different animal. Mostly defined as a single story that takes place over the course of hundreds of pages, the time commitment required to finish a book has always been a turn-off for me. Granted, I’ve read some amazing books in the past where I was more than willing to put in the time to see it to its conclusion, but there are so many other entertainment options available to me that don’t have that barrier. I’ve preferred the joy of being able to pick up a video game controller and get instant satisfaction. I could go online and read about things I’m interested in fairly quickly, even during the 14.4 modem days, versus the time it would take to read a novel. Even the classic television format of shows being aired at specific times made that medium obsolete for me over a decade ago. I want entertainment and I want it now.

The other psychological hang-up I have with books is that I always associate them with school work. It was always about reading this book whether I liked it or not because I needed to get good grades and move on with my life. I’m not necessarily looking for someone to give me a grade after completing each book, but the idea of books being force-fed to me because they’re good for me is a stigma I still haven’t shaken off.

Marvel Now New 52Though I doubt that I’ll catch up on novel reading any time soon, I am consuming more fictional stories in book form than ever of late. Comics have become a great source of entertainment for me. After reading through the Marvel Now and New 52 omnibuses, I’ve plowed through dozens of comic issues and trade paperbacks. I like the issue-based format of the medium allows me to get a fix in a matter of minutes, while the trade paperbacks and omnibuses allow me to indulge for hours when I so choose.

I’ve always felt this feeling of being “uncultured” for not being more involved in reading novels. Though having a background in it may not be all that important in the grand scheme of things, not having it seems to always irk me for one reason or another. At the very least, it’s not like my reading muscles aren’t being put to good use elsewhere. I won’t force it, because forcing the issue was part of my issue with reading novels in the first place. If I ever turn the corner on this, then great. If not, I’ll carry on reading other stuff elsewhere.

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