Remember When We Used to Read the Back of Shampoo Bottles?
A few months ago, I decided I was going to start reading books again.
It wasn’t that I ever really stopped reading books, per se. Rather, the pile of books harbored on my bedside table continued to increase at a faster pace than it was decreasing.
There’s no arguing that these days it’s much more convenient to whip out your phone, open an app and read the information. It’s never been easier to educate, or distract ourselves. But at a certain point you come to realize that the tidbits of literature consumed via an Instagram post or crowded twitter feed fall short compared to real prose.
As important as it is to read Suzie’s rant about missing her cleaning lady, or yet another positive affirmation about someone else’s life, so much can also be gained via a published, edited article or book.
While reading a book, you willingly participate in the process of gaining information or being entertained. When I scroll through Twitter I am privy to contrasting opinions on many things. Because I follow these people, I clearly want to hear what they have to say. But reading that Jessica is fed up and wants to move to Canada- again- can become redundant. Unless, of course, she’s actually moving to Canada, in which case first dibs on her Crate and Barrel sectional is a possibility.
With books and other published materials, we get to choose the information that comes our way. This is usually based on subject matter, quality of writing, and reviews. I like to read about topics that will broaden my knowledge of specific areas of interest or assist me in my everyday life. I appreciate hearing friend’s and influencers’ insights into life, and often find them very relatable. But I also want to learn what a qualified professional says, in detail, about topics like parenting or stress management.
The colloquial language found online surely saves time, but there is some comfort in knowing that the continued consumption of printed books will help ensure our kids receive anniversary cards that read beyond ILYSM, tnx for being such a gr8 wife :).
It’s not one or the other, mind you. I often come across a topic online that triggers my interest and leads me to take out every book on the subject (two of which I actually read). Similarly, a documentary might spark my curiosity on a certain individual, after which I seek out a detailed biography that covers more ground.
I think it's important to differentiate: Social media is a place to get short quick doses of entertainment and insight. Books enable us to get well-researched, edited material that you don’t have to think twice about before referencing at a Shabbos meal. Of course, there’s room where the two overlap, in much the same way my role as a mother blends with event planner, cleaning lady, cook, chef etc.
With e-book sales on the decline, (down 3.9% in 2018, according to the Association of American Publishers), it appears the excitement inherent in holding, smelling, and, yes, reading a physical book is on the comeback.
I’ve always believed that a good book is one of the best gifts you can give, not only because it shows you know and care about what interests a person, but because its value is timeless. Unless, of course, the book is about how to use a floppy disc. In which case, there is still nostalgia to fall back on.
I’m not sure why, but when I sit down to read a book, or even so much as pray from a Siddur instead of on the phone, my kids are less inclined to gravitate towards me. It’s as if they realize I am deep into an imaginative journey to a faraway place where the likes of asking for snacks or tying a shoelace can wait another five minutes. In contrast, the phone is a device that pretty much defines distraction, a bandwagon they are only too happy to hop aboard.
So whether it’s a shampoo bottle, a holocaust memoir or the next “Game of Thrones” novel, (yes some people read them), there is no doubt that books, much like the Bible, are things of the past that nonetheless are here to stay.