The art of storytelling has greatly defined our world.
We have the ability to not only communicate with one another, but to use our words to create vivid dream-like stories that can do everything from entertain to teach valuable lessons that have the ability to shape lives.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that the art of storytelling has always been versatile. Beginning with the great poets such as Homer who recited stories in Ancient Greece, to the creation of the printing press which catapulted the mass production of the written word, stories have changed along the way, adapting to growths in technology and becoming more and more widespread and readily available. Still, I believe the power of a good book is still incomparable to anything else.
We are now living in a period of time where streaming services and social media dominate the entertainment world. I’ve watched as bookstores have closed down and many books are now only being produced and released in audio format. The way we consume art is changing and it has left many of us bibliophiles concerned about how this might impact the humble book.
With films and television adaptations, audiobooks and podcasts, technology has advanced to the point where reading for entertainment or pleasure has become something that can be entirely avoided if you try hard enough. The ways in which we consume entertainment is at the forefront of many discussions, as we live in a world where we are connected to millions upon millions of people, opinions and lifestyle choices, all of which are captured and ready to view and interact with at any moment. Gratification is instant, and it is honestly a wonder how sitting down to read a 400+ page book is still a relevant use of time in our modern world.
The Harry Potter phenomenon is a wonderful example of how storytelling is shifting dramatically. Through the creation of theme parks, merchandise, eight films and a spin-off franchise in the works, it is apparent that the Wizarding World which began in the pages of a book has become a commodity of epic proportion. And this isn’t a one time thing. This formula can be repeated over and over again. We are inundated with books that are being turned into movies to the point where it’s hard to to actually know how many people are consuming the books or just hanging around for the movie to come out. There are millions of Harry Potter fans in the world, and there are plenty of fans that exist who have never thought to touch the books. They simply don’t have to, given the abundance of movies and merchandise that satisfy the storytelling through visual means. But if you have read the books, then you know there is a whole world of settings, plot lines and characters that never truly saw the light of day in the films. I have different favourite characters in the film than I do in the books, because it just isn’t the same.
Digital publishing has added a new layer to the book world, but I personally think that eBooks are a wonderful addition to the publishing world. They make reading more accessible than ever and once you’re a few pages into the story, it’s easy to forget you’re reading on a screen because it no longer matters what the words are displayed upon, only that they’re there.
So, those of us who do read, why do we do it? Why is it still relevant to slowly pace ourselves through pages on pages of prose and dialogue when we could pop over to Netflix and see the film adaptation?
The answer is that it’s a completely unique experience to read a book for a multitude of reasons.
Reading brings knowledge and knowledge is power
It is impossible to read an entire book and not learn something new. Knowledge is power and the more widely we read, the more educated and less ignorant we become and the better we are for it. We can only be our best and most compassionate selves when we are informed about a variety of things. Books can introduce us to new cultures, new ways of life and new ways to think about love.
Being a human means understanding so much, and books can help us with that. As we read and share in stories about topics we have never seen or heard of before, we learn and become accustomed, and better yet, we become empathetic and understanding of new situations.
Books are opportunities for growth
If we learn as we read, then we can also grow. Reading encourages curiosity and creativity. Plots and characters can act as a mirror to our own lives, showing us unity and comfort in places we’d never think to look. We are able to relate with characters along with millions of other people and perhaps in this way, we might not feel so alone. We can see traits in characters that inspire us to do better and be kinder.
Reading can also challenge what we know of the world as we are introduced into the mind of someone else. Whether it’s a fantasy novel, science fiction, young adult or a biography, we are taken from our small corner of the world and shown something we never really could have seen or been a part of otherwise.
A reader lives a thousand lifetimes
Books are little pockets of magic in the world. George R.R Martin wrote in his novel A Dance with Dragons:
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads lives only one.”
Books that consume you are the best. The ones where you’re are so invested and engrossed in the story that it may be storming at the campground while your characters are hiding in their tent from the hail and the lightning, and when you look up you’re confused why the sky outside your window is blue. Wasn’t it storming and cold? You could have sworn it was. That’s the best feeling in the world. The books that physically move your brain to a whole different dimension you didn’t even know existed until someone else’s words took you there.
As a writer, books mean just that little bit extra for me. Reading has been a monumental part of my life and has greatly impacted who I am today. I would not have the dreams I have or have taken the path of creativity that I have, or even view the world as I do if I hadn’t read widely and profusely. I blame my love of reading for a lot of my beliefs and my desires. Without my love of reading, my writing would not exist. Without reading so many books I would have no desire to create my own. I would not strive to be a writer.
Books in any form, digital, audio or the classic and trusted printed and bound, are beautiful opportunities. At the end of the day, the more forms in which stories are told, the more people are likely to access and connect to them.
The written word, or more importantly, the art of storytelling brings to light so much possibility. I have loved, cried and had my heart broken and mended again all among the pages of my favourite books. The power of books and the endless possibilities that a good story possesses is not something that can be eradicated.
So I may be biased, but I am an advocate for the importance of books. And even though reading is adapting in its formats, I don’t think any amount of change is going to take away the fact that at their heart, books still remain the same magical entities that give us endless possibilities to spark our creativity and teach us deeply and profoundly about the human experience.