Why I Love Reading: Escapism

In hindsight, I probably should have read Jaws and written a review of it in honor of Shark Week. But instead, I’m drinking Yellow Tail and thinking about how much reading makes my life worth living. Plus, there’s always Shark Week next year.

So I have this job. I would define it as joyless, soul sucking, and just downright depressing. During work I think about one of two things: 1. How I wish I were reading or 2. How I plan to hang myself above the coffee bar. I try to focus on the wishing I was reading part.

Thankfully, tomorrow is Saturday (which means no work) but also it’s DO NOTHING BUT READ DAY (or DNBRD for short)! The best day of the year. The day I don’t have to think about the job that makes me want to drink Draino or my mountains of debt or the spiders waiting to avenge the death of their fallen comrades. Instead, I have an excuse to just read. ALL FRICKIN’ DAY!

So I was thinking to myself, why does it hurt so much to pull a wine cork out with your teeth? Is it friction? Is it that I buy cheap wine and that it’s not really made of cork? Is it the fact that I’m supposed to be talking about reading as escapism and how awesome DNBRD is going to be tomorrow!?! Is it the fact that this post is probably riddled with spelling errors?

But I digress. Tomorrow I plan to read all day, because one of the things I love about reading is the ability to escape into a book.

What do Alice, Dorothy, September, and Candy Quackenbush all have in common? One they’re all girls because obviously girls have a larger capacity for imagination, two they’re all relatively young and hopeful, and three, they all escape into something amazing.

Like these four ladies, I am a girl with a strong imagination, although I’m not very hopeful, probably because I’m not below the age of 13 and therefore life has filled me with bitterness and cynicism. However, I wish (definitely not the same as hope) for something amazing to happen to me one day. I wish I have a life filled with amazing stories, memories I can tell my children (provided they have the technology to grow children in floating spheres by then), and just love life for all that it is. Right now, I don’t see that happening, which is why I have books to do that for me.

I am one of those readers who gets lost in books. I am there, I am that person, and everything else around me regardless of what it is fades away and I am living in that moment, experiencing what that character feels. You could be talking to me while I’m reading and if I’m totally sucked in I might not even hear you or register that you’re there at all.

Reading allows us to encounter worlds we could never possibly experience, whether it be Middle-earth (that would be so cool), Narnia (damn you Jesus allegory lion), an alien invasion (“it’s a cookbook, a cookbook”), Hogwarts (I’m still waiting for my acceptance letter), or just a change in social class (I’m looking at you Darcy), books allow us to live thousands of other lives. Yes, we may be held down by a current situation, but to fix it all you need to do is pick up a book to escape to something better.

When I was in high school, my mother was worried about my obsessive escape into fiction, yelling at me for living in a fantasy world. It’s important to separate fiction from reality, especially when you’re younger and think that the world is this magical place where real work doesn’t get done and things just come to you (or rather, the author skips over all the boring bits). But when life is its roughest, or its most dark, I have reading to turn to, to make life just that little bit better. Or you could look at pictures of animals being cute. Whichever cheers you up.

Regardless, it’s important to read. It’s important to expand your mind, shape it to all possibilities, even impossible ones. Alice “believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”, while reading we can believe in even more. We can believe in different dimensions, the loch ness monster, fairy tale endings, and that bad things happen to bad people. When you read, anything is possible.

In order to see what books other people use for escapism, and in order to lengthen this post- because being a lush and a writer simultaneously sure is hard- I checked out escapism tags on goodreads to see other possibilities. At least until I got bored, which was pretty quick considering. The top two escapism books were sadly Twilight and New Moon. I guess if you’re into necrophilia and bestiality that’s some pretty good escapism right there. This was followed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter is all well and good for escapism, but OotP, really!?! That’s the worst book in the series. Next was The Golden Compass which is an A++++++ book. Who wouldn’t want to save the world like Lyra and have their own daemon? Granted, we wouldn’t want Lyra’s love life which is probably why the remainder of His Dark Materials is not on this list. Basically, most of the books are popular sellers full of amazing worlds I certainly want to visit (with the exception of The Da Vinci Code– unless of course it’s the “South Park” parody and our next Pope can be a  rabbit).

After LeakyCon ended I said to Kelly and Cassie-wa, “Well, I have nothing to look forward to now”. I didn’t want to go back to the real world where it wasn’t acceptable to dress as a wizard and talk about books all the time (although it should be!) Thankfully they were there to remind me all the things worth waiting for. They were right, I have to find out what happens to Deryn and Alek, I have to find out if Daenerys gains the Iron Throne, I have to find out if Tessa picks Will or Jem.

In order to live I have to escape into reading. I have to keep dreaming. I have to keep hoping. Life may not be like a book, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the power to make it like one.

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5 thoughts on “Why I Love Reading: Escapism

  1. Absolutely agree – as an English teacher I try my best to get my students to understand the benefits of reading. So much more rewarding than watching a film because it is all in your head, shaped by your own imagination. A good read stays in your head for… well… years. It lingers and you keep coming back to those characters like old friends.

    Really lovely post, thanks!

    Would love it if you have time to check out my blog – http://www.blurringthelines85.blogspot.com/

    I’ve been reminiscing about Harry Potter lately – ten years is a long time for characters to stay in your head – and your post certainly rings in tune.

    • Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you, life has been crazy hectic.

      What grade do you teach? My favorite part of elementary and middle school was always silent sustained reading time. No idea if they still do that though. Thankfully I feel like reading is getting more popular with kids, at least more so than when I was growing up.

      I also love the idea of characters living inside your head. I never really thought about that, but now I’ll never be able to forget it.

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