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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Column: What happened to reading?

Books offer a lot more than you think

By ALEX MOTAWI — almotawi@ucdavis.edu 

Almost nobody reads for enjoyment anymore. Reading used to just be a part of life, but it feels like those days are gone now. It was less than a decade ago when you could have a casual conversation about books with almost everyone. I remember showing up to school to talk about developments in the classics like “Percy Jacksonand “Harry Potter” or having to rush to finish the last book in the “Divergent” series before it was spoiled in passing. Moving into the science realm, people all over were enamored with authors like Malcolm Gladwell and Jared Diamond in a way that just doesn’t happen anymore. The love for books is gone. 

People have abandoned books during their leisure time in favor of streaming and games (with television still being relevant for now) and are missing out because of it. Reading is a form of entertainment that is healthy, feels good and is just as enthralling as your screen — people who are not reading are missing out big time.

Science fiction and fantasy books are the sources behind so many successful shows standing in the spotlight. Producers are scooping up the rights to turn books into hit TV shows all the time now, and while the shows often end up good, they rarely give the original books their due. Hop on the hype trains before they leave the station by reading the books first! It keeps your brain growing, gives you a break from screens, shows your favorite characters in depth unrivaled by TV and follows the plot that the author intended. Here are a few recent book franchises that have turned into successful shows topping the lists of your favorite streaming sites: “Game of Thrones,” the “Foundation” series, “The Witcher,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Expanse and Dune, along with a “Lord of the Rings” TV show in production. 

If you like any of those shows on TV, give the actual books a shot and try some similar books; you won’t regret it. If you want some fiction from popular franchises and legendary authors, here are a few options I highly recommend: “The Foundation Trilogy” (series called the genesis of science fiction by Isaac Asimov), “The Licanius Trilogy” (a James Islington high-fantasy series), “Star Wars: Phasma” (requires no “Star Wars” knowledge to be worth reading), “Wake of Vultures” (gender-inclusive) and “Mistborn” (incredible book series with a movie in production).

In addition to being self-improvement simply by choosing a book over a screen, psychology and self-improvement books can be used to really turn your life around if you invest just the slightest bit of your leisure time. I know many of you have never picked up a book like this before, so before you cringe and run, let me remind you that they are not textbooks. They are written by actual authors to stretch your brain in a way that’s actually enjoyable. Even if you are just leafing through a brain-health book to congratulate yourself on the advice you already follow, you are getting way more out of reading than you would be staring at a screen. You can find good books from quality authors on almost every subject, but some books that everyone will enjoy are “Freakonomics,” “Blink” and “Talking to Strangers.”

Reading has been steadily decreasing for decades now, but its benefits are so worth it that we need to fight for a resurgence. Maybe textbooks and the idea of reading for school as compared to reading for entertainment has blemished the shine of relaxing with a good book, but with school being entirely through a screen nowadays, taking a break with a book is a great refresher. If nothing else, authors have been writing classics for hundreds of years while showrunners have only been creating streaming originals for a couple. The horizon of great books to read is endless, and with everything books offer, it would serve you well to take a few steps toward it — trust me, it’s worth it.

Written by: Alex Motawi — almotawi@ucdavis.edu 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.