On Reading

As I was reading George Orwell's essays, I was struck by the vast array of themes covered therein. These essays include almost-chronicles reflecting on the author's life events, discussions of the complex political climate of the 1930s and 1940s, and analyses of other writers' works, such as those of Dickens, Kipling, Yeats, and Tolstoy. Reading these essays prompted me not only to think critically about the works of these authors but also to contemplate the evolution of the act of reading itself.

It struck me that I was reading an essay written 80 years ago about a man's perceptions of reading novels and poems that I myself have enjoyed. This caused me to reflect upon the stark differences between Orwell's reading experience on a morning in 1946 and the reading experience of today.

Undoubtedly, contemporary readers face more distractions than their counterparts in Orwell's time. Incessant intrusions from our phones and other devices often disrupt the reading experience, and many readers, myself included, make concerted efforts to minimize these interruptions. However, while we may enjoy greater access to a wealth of information compared to earlier research methods, we may also find ourselves becoming sidetracked by unknown information encountered while reading a novel, unfamiliar foreign names, curiosity about the author's life, or the urge to update our reading progress on Goodreads, all of which may distract the reader's mind in the present era.

One could physically retreat to the woods and immerse oneself in a book for several hours or switch off one's phone before bed in order to enjoy a private moment with one's book, perhaps spending the whole night curled up with it, until falling asleep in an uncomfortable position, glasses askew, spine twisted, and hands clenched around an entire world.

But how private is the reading experience of the average reader, when almost every corner of social media is filled with people sharing pictures of the piles of books they have read in the past month or offering recommendations such as "this book is not worth your time"? Or when we glance at our bookshelves and find numerous books we purchased simply because someone we barely know recommended them?

Years ago, most people who appreciated a good book would talk to their friends, family members, schoolmates, and neighbors about it, thus influencing others to read books for as long as such literature has existed. However, the opinions that received formal press coverage were those of famous writers such as Orwell, as well as reviewers.

Our access to online platforms for sharing our true thoughts and opinions has given a voice to many authors who are members of minority groups, an undeniably wonderful development that has resulted in greater diversity of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and other aspects of our bookshelves, all thanks to the creation of an internet-based community. This is one of the major advantages of being a reader in the 2020s.

However, are our opinions on books truly our own, or have we absorbed them from our internet community? Do you dislike Colleen Hoover's books because you have read one of her books or even a synopsis and found them unappealing? Or do you dislike a particular author because, as a reader of classics, you feel that "this type of book is beneath you"? Did you genuinely enjoy The Secret History, or did you merely say so because the Dark Academia community adores Donna Tartt's work? I am not suggesting that everyone simply goes along with the community; I, for one, do not read certain authors because they do not appeal to my personal tastes, and I do genuinely enjoy Tartt's work. Nevertheless, it is always interesting to analyze our motivations and choices in order to better understand who we truly are and what we genuinely like or dislike, regardless of our online community affiliations.

This brings me to my final thought: do communities such as Dark Academia and classic literature (both of which I am a part of) create even more literary prejudice? Most creators of these communities, myself included, simply adore classic literature and the Dark Academia style, and are not actively promoting hatred of other types of literature. However, the sad reality is that some viewers may interpret our content in this way.

In an era of such abundant entertainment, reading remains an act of passion, and everyone should be free to read whatever they desire. It is a paradox that, as members of the online book community, some creators promote diverse literature while simultaneously seeking to prevent people from reading and enjoying literature that is considered to be "less intellectual, less aesthetic, or less important." Reading is and will always be an act of passion. Let us each read and let others read as they will.


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