Posted by Jeanna Foti, Fiction Reader for issue 4.2
My roommate once told me, “I’d rather watch a movie than read a book.” And immediately I thought, really?! A book has so much more to offer than a movie does. But I know mine isn’t the popular opinion. Everyone these days seems to have a cell phone and it’s hard to find a college student who doesn’t own a laptop. In a world where every college student seems to have a Netflix account, literature has been pushed to the side and forgotten.
While Netflix has made it easier to binge watch a TV series, there is still something about literature that, in my opinion, can be even greater than a TV show. When reading a book, you create a little universe inside your mind using just the words on the page. It’s an experience unique to you. You’re using your imagination to picture the story you are reading and taking an active role in creating it. This aspect is one of the things I love about reading; it allows you as the reader to have a say in how you see the story.
And then there are all of those movies adapted from a book. Have you ever noticed how most people who have read the book don’t end up liking the movie? I often hear, “That’s not how I pictured it.” That’s because that movie is someone else’s imagination at work; you as a movie-goer are taking a passive role in the creative process. With a movie, there
is a certain wall that is built between you and the story; the actors are large and in your face, but in reality you know you are in a movie theater in upstate New York and not running through the Hunger Games stadium with Katniss. You know you aren’t flying on a broom stick next to Harry Potter in a Quidditch match. When you’re reading a novel, you can be the main character’s best friend. You can even imagine yourself as the main character. There is a whole world open to you in between the covers of a book.
With movies, the language literature provides and the details described are lost. When brought to film, these beautiful descriptions are lost in a ten second shot of scenery that will most likely be forgotten.
Not only does literature allow you to use your imagination, but it can also help to relax you. Have you ever noticed your eyes crossing as you’re trying to read your textbook? Well, that’s because reading can have a calming effect on you. True, a novel is more interesting than a textbook, but reading in general can have this effect in a world where everyone is so high strung and stressed out about everything. It’s good to sit down and do something that can make you forget those stresses for even just a half hour.
And have you ever gotten in bed, decided to watch one episode of Parks and Rec on Netflix before sleep, and realized four hours later and eight episodes in that you feel wide awake? Don’t lie, we all have. Having a screen in front of your face right before bed keeps your brain working, when really the goal is to slow it down and get it ready for sleep. In fact, stimulating your brain with a screen can keep you from falling asleep and from staying asleep. Ironically, the more active role of reading will have a more relaxing effect than watching a movie will.
So next time you’re getting ready for bed, I dare you to try it. Pick up a book instead of your laptop and see where it takes you. And who knows? You could get the best sleep of your life.
Update: For more on technology’s effects on sleep, check out this article from The Sleep Judge, a site dedicated to bettering sleep habits.