Runaway from Reality to a Good Book

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You didn’t walk in here for books. You didn’t have to say my name. You didn’t have to smile or listen or take me in. But you did. Your signature is on the receipt. This wasn’t a cash transaction and it wasn’t a coded debit. This was real.

Okay, so, this actually wasn’t real; it was an excerpt from Caroline Kepnes’ You. What you just read may not be the reality that you are currently living, but, for just a moment, didn’t it feel real? Did you manage to get lost in the world of “you” and “me” and their mysterious transaction and forget about your own world for just a minute? That type of dreamy, otherworldly experience is one that can be found through reading a good book.

An almost too close relationship with fictional characters.

From traveling to Where the Wild Things Are with Maurice Sendak and doing the Barnyard Dance with Sandra Boynton to discovering The Secret Garden alongside Francis Hodgson Burnett, books have been taking me on adventures before I even knew how to read them. When I was finally old enough to read chapter books, I realized how invested I was in the characters. Moreover, I was grateful that they had several chapters so I could learn more details about their lives with each chapter. Their world was my escape and I was often so immersed in it that I could temporarily tune out my own. 

Each new character I met was a friend, an enemy, someone whose experiences I could learn from…or try to avoid. There were adventurous characters I lived vicariously through, timid characters that I empathize with, and more. If my favorite character had their heart broken, my heart was shredded. I would even go through withdrawal when I finished a book; I felt as though I was being ripped away from the characters and their stories too soon.

Taking a break.

With age…and an influx of schoolwork and internships, I grew apart from reading “for fun” and academic readings took priority. I still found adventures in history or English readings, but being forced to analyze something as you read it takes away from the imaginative side of reading. However, taking time for myself to escape the stresses of school is something I have always valued. Disappearing into a good book is the perfect way to do that, so I recently made a pact with myself. 

Any time I have time for myself, whether it be five minutes between classes or several hours on the weekend, I am going to pick up a book and just start reading. I’ll have no excuse not to cut out that time and just let my mind rest on the pages. I hope after recalling nostalgic memories of childhood reading with me, you will also consider getting back into reading regularly.

Why you should read too.

Here’s the thing about reading: there is no better way to distract yourself than to read a story. If I’m really troubled by something, a TikTok may give me momentary relief for its 60-second duration and a movie could stall me for an hour or so, but it wouldn’t help me forget about it. The only way to completely rid your mind of a thought is to replace it with a completely different thought, so why not substitute your stresses for a thrilling quest for lost treasure or a more laid-back summer romance? The [book] world is your hypothetical oyster! You can choose a book that you can relate to, or something entirely different from your own life for an even better escape.

You may say it’s impossible to travel to an enchanted castle without leaving your home, but authors have the power to do that. Through storytelling, they can not only take you away from your demanding or stressful circumstances, but bring you somewhere so amazing you’ll forget all about it.

Authors are able to personalize stories to their readers by referring to the subject as “you” or “I” which allows you as the reader to really put yourself in the character’s position. You may also find similarities between yourself and the characters which makes it easier to fully immerse yourself in the story. Once the main characters have been introduced, then the authors can draw you in with detailed and dramatic descriptions of the characters’ experiences to the point that you are not only visualizing, but practically living in the shoes of the character you’re reading about. Even when the book ends, especially in the case of a cliffhanger, the story is able to be continued through the reader’s imagination. This makes it the best escape because the distraction never stops if you’re continuing to dream up your own endings to the story.

You may have an on-and-off relationship with reading like I do, but that doesn’t mean it’s over! If you have time to watch ten TikToks (~10 minutes total), you likely have time to read one to two chapters of a book. Think of it as a little “R&R”––Reading and Relaxation––rather than an assignment and consider escaping 2020 and getting lost in a book with me.