Stephen King sahas always said that books saved his life. The writer, who overcame a problem of alcoholism and a hard rehabilitation after an accident last year, was that direct in his autobiography. The master of terror is not only a prolific writer (he is 74 years old and has 61 published novels, no biggie), but a voracious reader who consumes more than 70 books ("good and bad, everyone learns") at year.
Reading can save a life as it happened to King, but even in less extreme cases the importance of reading is unquestionable. Undertaking a trip with a book in the suitcase or even the reading being the trip itself is one of the most pleasant sensations out there. A book is associated with a moment of leisure, relaxation. It is a solitary activity that requires concentration and imagination, values that are nowadays in clear retreat.
The benefits of reading have always been there, but it is nowadays, when technology reduces our attention and thousands of stimuli break our concentration, when literature has gained new importance. Turning off the computer, TV and telephone and locking yourself at home (or escaping to nature) with a book is a highly recommended experience.
We´re talking mainly about paper books. The emergence of ebooks has made it easier to acquire certain titles, and also facilitates reading in other languages by having the text a built-in dictionary that opens with a single click. But if we want to add a “digital diet” to the benefits of reading, we should opt for the classic paper books.
The healing power of reading is then manifested in an almost physical way, by smelling the binding glue, touching the crisp sheets under our fingers and noticing the literal weight of a story to discover in our hands. But don't get confused, reading is much more than a pleasure.
One of the most obvious benefits of reading is the increased knowledge and cognitive ability of the reader. In other words, reading is learning. But reading books has less obvious advantages. A study by the University of Oxford proved that those who are regular readers in adolescence are more likely to achieve professional success in the third decade of their life; Another ensured that it reduces stress and serves as a form of meditation. There are even professionals who ensure that reading novels, despite being a necessarily solitary activity, encourages empathy because it makes us get involved in other people's stories and that we identify with characters with an intensity that cinema can rarely achieve.
But what we highlight here, is not really relevant. The conclusions reached by different and prestigious studies aren´t relevant neither. The benefits of reading are palpable for those who practice it. Books make us live other lives and forget ours for a while, helping us relax and fly away. They have the power to change our lives. We just have to start reading and let ourselves get carried away.
Many predicted the end of the books when the theater arrived, insisted when the cinema was invented and charged again with the appearance of television and mobile phones. We have been anticipating the end of the reading as we know it for years, but it hasn´t happened yet. Because no matter how much technological leisure it is willing to replace, there is no other discipline capable of establishing a dialogue as intimate with the recipient as reading.
Books speak to us directly and personally, they are not a shared experience like the one lived in a movie theater. Libraries are silent precisely because of that, because we need a certain emptiness to start that dialogue, that intimate relationship with books and the stories they contain.
The Internet and the possibility of consulting and ordering books online may have reduced the importance of libraries but it seems that people are reluctant to abandon them. The number of libraries has been reduced in the last ten years in Spain (there are 226 fewer). But in that same time the visits have grown by more than 20 million and the number of partners has increased by 5.5 million. With this data in hand we can certify that reading is on trend. And looking at the past we can certify that it will not be a passing fad, and that the benefits of reading books must never be overlooked.