I’ll cut to the chase. Reading isn’t an academic thing, it’s a life thing.
But so many in our world have been scarred from calculus textbooks in school to complicated essays at uni, that it seems a chore to get through even a Dickens novel.
And I get that. I get that because, dare I say it, reading really is a chore. You might say that it depends on what you’re reading, but I argue a page of Dickens is as arduous for the mind as a page of Russel.
Quite a hot take I know but think about it. Fiction requires not only knowledge of the real world for the imaginary one to make sense, but also a grasp of abstract ideas about love, time and the like.
The great thing about fiction though is that those philosophical or dense issues are clothed in everyday language. So you may read some prose and think it's waffling about nonsense, but a moment’s reflection shows how meticulous the writer was.
Here’s an example of Ecclesiastes's writing long ago pointed out by Orwell:
“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
This beautifully describes how merit, wealth, and competence don’t lead to success, but rather success is left to pure chance. So one enjoys the metaphors and relishes the personification whilst also deciphering the deeper, more philosophical meaning with furrowed brows.
This is why I believe reading, no matter if it’s fiction or otherwise, is both a pleasure and a chore.
It’s perhaps the best way to impart knowledge, and much like a student in a gym, it takes hard work and dedication to reap the benefits.
But it’s also a liberating place to experience worlds beyond ours without leaving our bed.
So I hate to be candid, but next time you say that reading is boring or hard, well it’s supposed to be. The silver lining though is that gaining knowledge is only one reason to read. The other is up to you.