For World Book Day Susan Omand looks at the enjoyment of reading...
I can’t remember the last novel I read purely for the pleasure of it. Don’t get me wrong, I read a LOT, probably more than most people, and I enjoy a lot of what I read but there is always an ulterior motive to it. I read for work, to edit or to give a review or feedback. I read for reference and to learn things, to make better informed opinions or decisions about the world around me. And, probably the closest I’ve come to reading for enjoyment in recent years, I read for inspiration as a commissions artist, to let the words of others paint their pictures in my head, so that I can put onto paper or screen my visual interpretation of their imagination.
And this is where reading wins out over watching films or television every time for me. For me, watching a film doesn‘t fire the synapses nearly as much as reading a book, because it is all laid out in front of you, already committed to solid form and doesn’t require much, if any, imagination to follow the story. It may also lead you to accept the on-screen version of how things look as being the “correct version” but it is not your version so you don’t buy into it as much. When you watch a story unfold on a screen you are seeing the realisation of somebody else’s vision of it, usually the director, and it may not even be their complete vision of it as practicalities often get in the way of invention unless the film has a huge CGI budget. So, no matter how well it is presented, you are always an observer to a film, never a participant as is the case with a book where you build your own scenery, add your own actors, whether real or not, and hear the voices sounding you want to hear them. You get drawn into the story a lot more because of this and, I think, get a lot more back from it, not just for this one book but for all stories, as using your imagination, like exercising any muscle, makes it stronger. However, like exercise, reading takes a lot more time and effort than watching a film because you have to use your imagination and take in all the guiding points from the author to help you build the scenery and populate the stage in your mind. Time maybe not many people have these days.
I know some will argue that watching films has a similar effect for them, and you only have to look at Steve’s “what if” fantasy casting articles on this very site to see that watching films can indeed fire off imaginative flights of fancy as he makes a story his own by adding the actors and directors that he would want to see in them, but this is a rare and wonderful thing.
So today, for World Book Day, here’s a challenge. Read something, anything at all, purely for the enjoyment of reading it. Take time over it, exercise your imagination, indulge your sensory perceptions, create the scenes in your head and completely engage with the story. I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.