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 dreamlike stories that can do everything from entertain to teach valuable lessons. If history has taught us anything, it’s that 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 in the 15th century which catapulted the mass production of the written word, stories have changed along the way, responding to growths in technology and becoming more widespread and readily available.
But 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 many bookstores close down as e-books and audiobooks have risen in popularity and are becoming the primary format for new releases in some genres. The way we consume is changing and with all the advancements in technology it’s honestly a wonder how sitting down to read a 400+ page book is still a relevant use of our time and it has left many of us ‘bibliophiles’ concerned by how this might impact the future of the humble book.
The Harry Potter franchise is a wonderful example of how storytelling has shifted dramatically.
The Wizarding World has taken the world by storm, amassing eight films, several theme parks, merchandise, video games, and a new spin-off series. Starting from humble beginnings, the world J.K Rowling created 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 being turned into movies and it’s hard 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 whom have never read the books. They simply don’t have to given the abundance of films and merchandise that satisfy the storytelling through visual means. However 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 e-books 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, for those of us who do still find entertainment and pleasure with our favourite books, 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 most educated we are, the less ignorant we become and the better we are for it. We can only be our best and most compassionate selves when we are educated 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 are like little guides to the human experience. As we read and share in stories about topics we have never seen or heard of before, we learn and become accustomed to, and better yet, empathetic and more 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. If we see parts of ourselves in the characters of the books we read…maybe we won’t 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 an auto-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
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. One of my most recent reads was André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. His ability to transport you into Elio’s world is a perfect example of why I read. I was so engrossed in the descriptions of the Italian village that I felt I was smelling and tasting the summer air along with the characters. It was as if I too was a resident watching as this story unfolded before my eyes belonging to this world as much as the characters did. I was so engrossed that when I had to put the book down I was surprised and somewhat disappointed I wasn’t actually in Italy. But it’s one of 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 picked you up from your bubble and took you there.
As a writer, books mean just that little bit extra for me as they are little pockets of magic in my world. 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 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 stories are told in the more people they are likely to connect to because of accessibility. The written word, or more importantly, the art of storytelling brings to light so much wonder and joy. I have loved, cried and had my heart broken and mended again all among the pages of my favourite books.
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 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.
Gabrielle Downes is a recent Arts graduate from the University of Melbourne. She is an avid reader and writer and is currently working on starting her own personal lifestyle blog. Gabrielle is passionate about history and travel and hopes to continue seeing different parts of the world.