Reading Habits: The Perils and Benefits of Forcing Ourselves to Read.

Photo by Gijs Coolen on

A friend recommends a television show to you. One that they guarantee you will enjoy if you just get past the first 5 seasons, a total of 96 40-minute-long episodes. You can’t skip it because it plays an integral part in the plot going forward and you won’t appreciate the pay-off at the series finale if you do. Would you watch the show?

Depending on your priorities and the amount of time you have on your hands, chances are that a good portion of you will say no. As much as you may appreciate your friend and enjoy television, you don’t want to dedicate 64 hours of your life to something you know you will probably not enjoy a great deal from the beginning . So why do so many of us tend to not apply the same reason to what we choose to read?

There could be important reasons that require you (whether you like it or not) to finish a book you may not have any affection towards. As discussed in one of my past articles on reading habits, It could be because you are in an industry like publishing or book blogging where you are required to read a great amount and have a well-rounded opinion about what you just read. Another reason could be because it is a requirement for a class you are taking, that you read certain books so that you can write an essay or pass a test.

More superficially, some of us may read to appear more intelligent to our colleagues, family, or friends. We may also wish to simply keep up with the ongoing trends of popular bestsellers or hot topics in fiction or non-fiction. We may build up FOMO(fear of missing out) if we don’t read, regardless of whether we enjoy the book or not. If we read for these reasons, if we don’t willingly immerse ourselves in the text we are reading, the benefits may be lost to us, and the lesson may quickly fade away.

Yet the peril of reading is not simply forgetting, or wasting one’s own time, but also hurting ourselves in the process. If we choose to read a book with content discussing assault or suicide, depending on our own individual experiences, we may be triggered by the content we are reading. Old memories pop up or emotions begin to surface and we no longer feel safe in the book we are reading. It is far better to DNF a book then to put oneself through personal torment to finish it.

With that said I do wish to make a distinction between books that trigger/hurt us and books that challenge/teach us. There are plenty of books, particularly historical non-fiction, that tell uncomfortable and unsettling stories and we may wish to remain ignorant to these tales but to do so is to learn nothing from the events. Furthermore if we close ourselves off to everything outside our bubbles of comfort and interest, such as only reading romance, then we leave buried, emotions and lessons that could prove beneficial to our everyday living which lie in some other book in some other genre, from some other time, and by some other author.

Our emotions, the very ability to empathize, to look at important issues from new perspectives, to reflect on and learn from tragedies such as slavery or the Holocaust, these tools become stagnant and blunt. As important as it is to be immersed in a story we “enjoy”, it is equally important to challenge our tastes and perspectives every once in a while.

In the end, do not force yourself to read what will ale you, for fear that all of your joy for reading should disappear, unless what you read will help you understand what has ailed another, then please proceed with haste.

“Beware of the person of one book.”

Thomas Aquinas

As always, thank you so much for stopping by to read my blog. Please let me know your thoughts on this articles in the comments. Did I get something wrong, right, or did I miss something altogether? Let me know.

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