Books

Why do books still exist, asks a teenager

Books STILL exist. Weird, isn’t it? Why do books still exist? It sounds like a novel in itself: books overcoming the odds, beating technological advancements and the strains of day-to-day modern life, and prevailing still.

I was thinking about the future, last night. About the job I would have when I grow up, the house I would buy, and what I’d put in it. I immediately decided I definitely wouldn’t buy a television. Why would I need to, when I watch everything I want to on Youtube or Netflix? And that’s when it came to me: the television side of media has moved on – people don’t need televisions anymore, and a piece of technology that was so modern is now considered old and unnecessary.

So why are books still so loved, still so popular despite all the distractions we face in the 21st century, when all they are, essentially, is bound pieces of paper? The answer is simple. Because they certainly are not simply bound pieces of paper.

To try to answer my question, I tried to think back to when I started reading. Truth be told, I couldn’t wait: I taught myself to read, gritting my teeth through the big words, but determined I would get to the end of the book. Because even then, books were magic to me. They say magic doesn’t exist, but it does: and I’ll explain to you exactly why.

Modern life runs at a million miles an hour. Sometimes, I feel like life has the wind behind it, pushing it forward, and it leaves me behind, gasping for breath and calling for it to slow down. Books are a tiny piece of magic in a constantly moving world. In my opinion, they’re the world’s greatest and worst metaphor for life all in one go.

I’ll start with why they’re the worst metaphor. They’re the worst metaphor, because you can close books. You can shut them whenever you want and go and do something else. You can stay up all night reading, get to the end of the book and put it down, shut your eyes, and return to your dreams. You can’t do that with life and maybe that’s the reason I love books so much. Books allow you to live a thousand lives and a dream a hundred dreams, put yourself in the position of someone completely different, or someone completely similar. In real life, you only get once chance. There’s no rewind button (which is a great shame for some stupid jokes I’ve made), and you never get the chance to just stop your life for a minute to do something different, and then come back to it. I get really jealous when I think about books like that. Then I remind myself I’m being jealous of an inanimate object and go back to the page.

But the true reason I love books is because they’re such a great metaphor for life. A metaphor to tell you that no matter what happens, there’s always another page. No matter what awful things and events might have happened on one page, something different will happen the minute you give your fingers the chance to turn the page. A character who seems simple at the beginning develops, and you never quite know them until the very last page. And lastly, some books are great. Some books are not so great. Some books are great to certain people. Others are great to other people. And that’s ok.

There’s a reason people still read books over watching one more episode of Suits (although that’s a really great programme). And it’s because you can’t the feeling that you get reading a good book that you get watching a programme. There’s something fulfilling about feeling those crisp edges on your hands, of watching scenes play out in your head, of fantasising over characters you wish existed. There’s just something truly magical about having something so simple in your hands that has the power to make you feel so much, to make you feel less alone and to make you feel worth more, as you become involved with the plot, the twists and the turns.

As a typical teenager, I stopped reading. I would tell myself this was it, this wasn’t cool. And then I’d stop. And each time I’d tell myself I was too old or some other excuse, but I always came back to reading, because reading stands on its own two feet, but it needs yours too. Netflix needs a strong internet connection, and maybe the new episode of your favourite show isn’t out yet. But if it is, it tells you what to think, it tells you what to believe, it tells you what the characters look like, how they act towards one another. It’s the same with television and Youtube and even radio and audiobooks: all claimed to be threats to the bookish industry. But books need YOU to be complete, and I think that’s why we still read. They need us to decide in our heads if we like the characters and what they look like, and how they talk, so we can daydream in empty classrooms and watch the world go by. They need us to decide exactly when we pick them up, when we put them down. If you miss something, go back a couple of pages. Books are just so unbelievably calming, having the control to read whenever and wherever and whatever you want.

So, what’s future of books? They’re not going anywhere. People love them too much. There’s a reason why hundreds of people campaign against libraries the government threaten to close. And there’s a reason why pieces of people, with magic ingrained in their spines, and love and thought drenched in the marks on the page, still exist.

Because, as long as we’re humans, we will love escaping. And as long as we love escaping, we’ll love finding new paths and people to learn about and love. And as long as we love finding new paths and people, we’ll love stories. And ultimately, as long as we love stories, we will love books.

Will books ever die? Tell us what you think on Twitter @GdnChildrensBks or by email childrens.books@theguardian.com and we’ll add your thoughts to this blog.

Categories: Books

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