It’s hard to start a new chapter without ever picking up a book

Emily DiSalvo, Arts and Life Editor

I have been a believer in the power of reading ever since I was born. Even before that, my mom would read stories to me in the womb. At age 20, there has yet to be a time when I am not “working on” a book.

This makes me a rare phenomenon because many of my peers seemingly can only name the books they read in high school English classes. According to Pew Research, in 2019, 27% of United States adults said they hadn’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year.

This is startlingly sad because life without books is hardly life at all.

For me, books are often an escape from my own story — one I am not always interested in focusing on. They are a chance to live someone else’s reality, learn something new or gain a new perspective on a current event.

Growing up, many people have commented on my writing skills, my mastery of language, the words I choose to use when I speak and my confidence when trying to articulate my thoughts into words. I can attribute my skills in all of these areas to reading. Because of books, I have learned new words. I have trained my mind to absorb language and to form my sentences the way a skilled author would.

Illustration by Connor Lawless

I am not just making stuff up here. Strong early reading skills are actually an indicator of higher intelligence later in life. If you want to make yourself a better writer and communicator, the best way to do it is to read books by people who write the way you want to sound.

Many non-readers use the argument that they are too busy for reading. For me, reading is a part of my routine, and it does not take up additional time. I read while I eat breakfast and it helps me to get my mind active first thing in the morning. I also read right before I go to bed to help settle me down.

Choosing to read when we are bored or have downtime instead of playing a video game or scrolling on social media is quite beneficial because it helps us use free hours to actively learn new things or to engage the parts of our brain that process language. While it may seem like a chore when you first start out, soon you will find yourself looking around for your book, eager to find out what happens next.

Books are also a good way to connect with others. I have found that I have an instant connection with someone when we have both read and enjoyed the same book. Even if we have never spoken before, simply being able to reminisce about the characters and the storyline gives two complete strangers something to relish together.

I bonded with my roommate in Washington, D.C. over books. When we were unpacking our bags on move-in day, I noticed both of us were pulling book after book out of our already heavy suitcases. To prioritize books in cumbersome luggage is a sign of a dedicated reader.

While it turns out we have different taste in books, we share recommendations and even old copies of some of our favorites. Our friendship now spans topics far beyond books, but it is still something we can talk about.

Some would argue that video games or movies have the same impact, but I would disagree. There is something magical about being able to explain that you spent days or even weeks with characters and stories — the same characters and stories as someone else. While some may connect to video game characters, there is a particular joy to reading their dialogue and watching them come to life on the page. On top of that, you have language, words and phrases as sort of a secret language to share.

No matter how you consume your books — hard copy, e-books or audio books — consume them. If you stopped liking books in middle school and haven’t tried again, try again. Books have so much more meaning for me now that I have lived and experienced things outside of the toxicity of seventh grade.

And books themselves have matured too. There are so many popular books by BIPOC authors, LGBTQ authors and authors of other diverse backgrounds. There are characters and storytellers that you will identify with, and if your last memory of reading is the Hamlet play you read freshman year of high school, I challenge you to return and try something new.

All these years of reading later, I don’t have a favorite book or genre. If you ask, I will probably name the book I am reading at that moment because I have read so many insightful and wonderful books it would be impossible and unfair to choose.

But, I challenge you to find a favorite book because maybe then, reading might become your favorite pastime too. Start a new chapter in your life. Read.