I am a fan of the classics, but I’m not talking about movies. If it isn’t a cult classic produced relatively recently, or if it doesn’t feature Daniel Radcliffe, it’s unlikely I have seen it or am even relatively familiar with it. No, when I say classic, I’m talking about books.
As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I am rarely found without a book in my hands. When I was younger. I carried around worn, ripped paperbacks of whatever fiction series I was currently obsessed with or pristine, ornate hardcovers of the latest “Harry Potter” or “Eragon” novels. Now, as I am about to graduate from Baylor and the literature-heavy Baylor Interdisciplinary Core program, this love usually translates to walking across campus with my nose buried in a library copy of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” or Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” While I will read e-books on my phone when I am absolutely desperate, I subscribe to the view that there is nothing better than the traditional, tangible ink on paper.
As I leave a program that awakened my love for classic literature, I find it easy to push aside and look down upon the books I used to love, but in an era where technology is rapidly outpacing literature, there is no room for book snobs — people who believe their reading choices make them superior and who look down on people who do not share their taste in literature. Rapid-result technology such as television and video games has become relatively ubiquitous, and its immediacy makes sitting down to read a book less and less appealing. Instead of discounting less revered, less “adult” books or turning up our noses at e-books, reading of any kind should be encouraged, if only to save what appears to be a dying pastime.
A study conducted in part by both Gallup and the Pew Research Center in 2014 found that 23 percent of Americans had not read a book in the preceding year, up from 18 percent in 2011, 13 percent in 2001 and only 8 percent in 1978. A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2015 showed that only 72 percent of adults had read a book in any format in the preceding year, down from 79 percent in 2011. A 2014 Pew Research Center study revealed that 28 percent of people had read an e-book in the last 12 months, up 11 points from 17 percent in 2011.
As it becomes easier to set aside books and sit down in front of a phone, computer or television to stream whatever drama/ comedy/ Netflix-exclusive that society is currently enamored with, we should take special care to celebrate reading of any kind, in any form. Instead of ridiculing people who choose their stories from different genres than our own or choose to read books in a modern, technologically-integrated format, we should appreciate that we have access to stories that appeal to each individual’s taste and formats that cater to each individual’s lifestyle.
We shouldn’t limit ourselves by tradition, nor should we attempt to mold others to our personal preferences. Reading is slowly becoming obsolete, and by ceasing to read, we close ourselves off to people, stories and entire worlds we didn’t know existed. We need to preserve this pastime by reading widely and encouraging others in their pursuit of the same, even if our inclinations differ.