Death of an Author

Death of an Author

Sparknotes is the bane of my existence. They are a brilliant company who feeds off the knowledge that most students do not want to read the books they are assigned in class. Their in-depth explanations of plot and analysis allow students to weasel their way out of assignments and, for the most part, not see a dip in their grades as a result. I hate it. Why? Because I am possibly the last student on the face of the earth who has read all of the classics assigned in high school, and then some.
In a world of video games and instant gratification, reading has nearly become a hobby of the past. Students hate to read. No, don’t protest. It is a fair generalization. The thought of sitting in one place for hours on end reading different clusters of the alphabet may as well be a 21st century form of cruel and unusual punishment.
Fortunately, I am one of the last beacons of hope in a distracted and internet-crazed world. I love to read. Over the span of five years, I’ve read about 395 books, an average of 79 books per year. On my own. For fun. For the sake of comparison, in the United States, an average citizen reads 12 books a year, according to the Pew Research Center. I might as well have a superpower. It is my strong belief that by not reading the assigned reading in school, or just reading in general, students are missing out on vital growth and experiences.
On the science of the issue, a study by the American Academy of Neurology showed that those dedicated to increased cognitive activity in the form of reading experienced slower memory decline in their old age. Reading in itself is essentially a workout for your brain, stimulating the parts that handle vision, language, and associative learning, along with training the brain to focus on each individual page of information. By stretching these necessary “muscles,” one is able to increase their chances of retaining memory by training the brain to focus and remember. Another study from the PLOS journal found that the encouragement found in self-help books helps boost the part of the brain associated with happiness, effectively preventing depression in the subjects. The Pew Research Center has found that between 2007 and 2017 depression episodes experienced by teenagers increased from 8% to 13%. This factor and the fact that teens typically have more free time than adults creates a perfect opportunity for them to kill two birds with one stone.
Beyond the scientific benefits to reading, there are experiences that students are missing out on by choosing not to read these books. Firstly, these books contain lessons that have the ability to carry through to the rest of the student’s life. On the surface, they may seem worn-out and tired. Scratches and dirt maring the once pristine cover. However, looks can be deceiving. What may look on the surface as a story about an angsty teen, his dead dad, and a whole bunch of monologues turns into a warning against holding grudges because they chain you more than it chains the person you have a grudge towards. What may be a story about a firemen and book burnings becomes a warning against ignorance and complacency. These books teach valuable lessons without being deemed as childish, as in the case with fairy tales and nursery rhymes and their lessons.
Secondly, authors are really cool. Especially classic authors. You can chuckle now. It’s okay. However, all one has to do is to look at the lives of authors such as Jane Austen for it to make sense. Jane Austen was the youngest of seven children in a household where reading and writing were extremely important. She is most famous for her novel Pride and Prejudice. I know, I know. You have heard of it and it sounds boring. However, you’re wrong. It is one of the most interesting books on the planet. Why? Because it was a first of its kind. Austen had a penchant for writing about women the way that other authors typically wrote about men. Instead of making them side characters, she made them the center of the story, making them clever and defiant despite their situations in life. In fact, there is no scene in any of her books where a woman is not present. It was revolutionary for the time period!
Finally, books open your eyes to the world around you. Reading from someone else’s perspective helps us to understand another person’s point of view. Imagine that. A study by the American Psychological Association found that the process of imagining scenes while reading led to an increase in empathy and prosocial behavior. Reading makes you a better person. Who doesn’t want to be a better person? Not all of us have the means to travel around the world. Books can transport us anywhere. Beyond the classics we study in school, there are libraries upon libraries of books in thousands of genres and styles that can take us around the world. Books also teach us how to care about someone other than ourselves. You get to watch a person as they grow physically and mentally and go along on all their adventures with them. What is more magical and eye-opening than that?
If you believe you don’t like to read, you’re wrong. You just haven’t found the right book. You are the issue. You’re saying that across 43 mainstream genres and many more obscure genres and the 130 million books to have ever been published, there is no book that you like. The odds are not in favor of that conclusion. In all likelihood, you are just too lazy to find a book that you like.
Well then, here are my five tips to finding the perfect book for you. Number one: ask yourself what is there that you would like to learn about. Number two: ask yourself what world would you like to live in, if possible. If you find an answer to either or both of those questions then continue. Number three: browse your local bookstore and/or the internet to find similar books. Number four: read a book that interests you. Number five: if you liked that book, find a book similar to that book. If not, then repeat steps 1-4 until you have reached the desired result. And wham, bam, thank you ma’am, you like to read. Good for you! No need to thank me, hold the applause.
In all seriousness, the time that I have spent reading have been the most rewarding and fulfilling hours/days/weeks/months/years of my life. I have traveled through space and time and have gone on more adventures than I ever thought possible. I sincerely hope that you all find the same passion for reading that I have found so magical. Excelsior.