How to be a Bookworm in the 21st Century

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Whether it’s curling up to a nice real-life book --yes, with actual pages and a cover-- or one of those e-book readers, many of us swear that it has become increasingly difficult to read in the 21st century. It’s no surprise that the main culprit is likely technological advances--specifically the integration of social media into popular culture. Admittedly, there are a lot of distractions we face on a day-to-day basis. Videos have since been made to demonstrate the detrition of individuals’ attention-spans. With all of this in mind, how can any of us be expected to ignore the vibration of our phones, the flash of a new text message, or the sound from a TV when it is turned on? To some people, books, especially ones published prior to 2010, can seem outdated, useless, and irrelevant to our current circumstances. I would, however, argue to the contrary, that books, especially the ones published before 2010, have so much to offer.

Books offer a window into the human spirit. They strip away the need for individuals to put up a false-front and they eliminate the need to impress. Books offer a reality that is not so often expressed when individuals are limited to just person-to-person interactions. Reading allows individuals to grasp situations and perspectives, without the usual sugar-coating or failure to find the correct words. When words are written down on paper, individuals can express their true emotions without the threat of judgement or ridicule.

But just how much different is reading now than it was back in the day?

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Personally, from what I know, bookworms have always been scrutinized, in one way or another. Be that across different cultures and during different time periods. To my understanding, there has always been a stigma attached to individuals who are said to “always have their nose in a book.”  Especially when that bookworm has possessed an identity different from the typical heterosexual white male.  For a long time, many individuals outside of the “norm” have either been institutionally prevented, by being restricted from learning how to read, or socially condemned and ridiculed by their peers and family members. Bookworms, individuals who enjoy consistent reading and various books, have been stereotyped to be socially awkward and withdrawn from society.  In many societies, there is a belief that there is something “off” about a person who dedicates a great deal of time to sitting by their lonesome and reading written words as opposed to limiting themselves to verbal and physical interaction with others.

I cannot speak firsthand of how reading has been regarded in past cultures and time periods, but from my personal experiences I can express what I have encountered. At a young age, I have always enjoyed reading. I liked to challenge myself with older texts, such as Shakespeare and classic novels, while my peers responded with confusion and regarded me as a strange loner. I learned to keep my love of books private. In middle school, I would read before classes would begin, but when my peers would arrive at the school, I would quickly put my book away and speak with them instead. I learned to limit my discussions about books to almost none.. It was not until my senior year of high school year that I began to freely admit the love I had for books and  integrated books into some of my conversations with my classmates and to casually connect text I had read into discussions.

College was liberating because that was a time I began to meet more fellow bookworms. In the beginning, finding another bookworm was comparable to finding a mythical creature that I did not know actually existed. I would say it is still quite uncommon to find an avid reader but they are certainly not rare, you just have to be on the lookout for them. What began as a hobby and a passion that left me feeling isolated and misunderstood, I have since found other individuals who share similar interests or at least can spare a respectful, listening ear to my book-discoveries.

Reading, as it is with life itself, is what you make of it. There are no rules for how to read, how often, or what books to select. To some, this freedom may seem intimidating. But to me, that is what freedom and creativity is all about. You can choose what new perspectives and worlds you wish to explore and you also have the choice for how it impacts your life and whether you share your findings with others. As many articles can attest, there are numerous benefits associated with reading. Of course, I undoubtedly would encourage you to seek out and explore stories and authors that interest you, especially when you are faced with waiting for long periods of time with nothing to do. For many of us, myself included, our first reaction when any type of waiting is necessary is to pull out our phones and to scroll through social media articles, look through old and new pictures, or to play a game. However, I ask that you challenge yourself a bit and to resist the urge-- even for just a few minutes--and to search for a text online or to open up a book and to read a few lines. It might just offer you a window into a new world you never knew you needed.