The question “Are books entertainment?” seems very strange to me, but then again I’m an English major, MFA, and writer so I certainly have a different perspective on it than many people. I can only assume that this question comes up because of a dopamine-now society bombarding so many people whether it’s YouTube, TikTok, video games, or TV.
Books are entertainment, and one of the most beneficial forms of entertainment out there. Pleasure reading can not only bring immense pleasure, entertainment, and joy to readers, but this enjoyable hobby also improves intelligence, comprehension, focus, and lowers stress.
While books don’t give the immediate dopamine hit of many other forms of entertainment, that shouldn’t be the only measure for what is entertaining and what isn’t. Let’s jump into why books should still be considered entertainment.
Stories Come In Many Forms
Storytelling has been one of the major forms of entertainment since time immemorial, and it comes in many forms. At the end of the day poems, short stories, fictional novels, movies, video games are all the same thing as telling ghost stories around the campfire. At the core all of them are about storytelling, one of the oldest forms of entertainment.
Books were a major advancement for a long time and while it’s true they may have “lost market share” to video games, streaming, movies, social media, that doesn’t suddenly make them “not entertainment.”
Also, as discussed in our article “Is Reading Dead?” there are actually more people reading and more books read than ever before in total numbers. In other words, even if a larger percentage of people go to other sources first, it doesn’t change the fact that more books than ever are being read by more people than ever.
Entertainment Is Subjective
Entertainment is subjective and what one person thinks is clearly enjoyable and entertaining is going to not be the same for another.
Quick, which of these are entertaining to you?
- Hiking 10+ miles
- Talking with friends for hours on end
- Spending days alone meditating in the woods
- Tent camping
- Making model ships in bottles
- Bar hopping
- Playing pool
- Watching opera
- Going to a concert
- Playing video games
- Watching movies alone
- Watching movies at theaters
- Ice skating
There is going to be virtually no one who enjoys every single one of these things and sees them as entertainment. In fact, many of these that people love others will equally hate. I have a good friend who goes on three family fishing trips a year but hates fishing – but goes for the family time, and all of them are obsessed with fishing.
One person’s ideal form of entertainment will feel like torture to someone else. Or less melodramatically, just not move the needle at all.
That doesn’t mean it’s not entertainment! It’s just not entertainment for you. Reading falls into this category with many people, in large part because their main experience with it is being forced to read at school…and let’s be honest: many of the book choices in junior high and high school are less than entertaining. They’re not great choices for encouraging and cultivating a love of reading, and so they don’t.
I read 200-300 books a year through elementary school and junior high and I disliked to hugely disliked at least half of the chosen books from English classes. If that was from a voracious reader, good luck converting non-readers with those texts!
The “I Don’t Like Reading” Argument
After all, entertainment is subjective, so there are certain things some people will enjoy but others won’t. Look at fishing, hunting, hiking, skateboarding, and dancing for a group of things many people are passionate or obsessed about and others could never be talked into enjoying in any way.
However, one strike against this as an argument that reading isn’t entertainment is this: the literally hundreds if not thousands of stories on YouTube and elsewhere of people who took a “Read 30 Minutes a Day for a Month” challenge, didn’t like reading when they started, and fell completely in love with it by the end.
This isn’t always the case, but it happens often enough that it’s worth paying attention to. Reading does require more attention, work, and patience to enjoy as opposed to a “grab attention right now” form of entertainment, but it’s worth the investment.
This doesn’t mean that you have to choose one or the other. I’m a huge film buff in addition to being a voracious reader and a gamer – so it is possible to enjoy it all, enjoying reading just opens up the most possibilities for entertainment and at times when nothing else is going to be available.
That’s the big benefit of reading as entertainment.
How to Learn to Enjoy Reading
If you know the benefits of reading, but find yourself struggling to get it going, here are some of the best ways to dive into the world of reading and join the ranks of entertained and happy readers.
Read What You Find Interesting
One of the best things you can start with is learning what stories you like most. One of my oldest high school friends was a huge Star Trek nerd like I was. He came from a military family, liked strategy games, and he hated free reading, while I loved it. So when I read a simply written, easy to read, action packed science fiction book Ender’s Game, I recommended it to him as a book he would enjoy.
Last we spoke he still re-read that book once to twice a year.
If you love science fiction, look for good “beginner” science fiction novels. Love horror? Look for the most accessible Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or John Saul works. Are you a huge history buff? Then could I recommend Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield? There is almost certainly a book or series of books that will be very on point with the types of stories you find entertaining.
Start with those, and your own curiosity will tell you when to expand to other authors, genres, or books.
Take Recommendations from People Who Recommend Books You Enjoy
The best recommendations come from people who love many of the same books that you enjoy. Since you know their tastes are going to be similar in at least some ways, their recommendations tend to be a bit more on the mark than random recommendations or even crowd sourced recommendations.
Books that have huge numbers of glowing recommendations online are still worth pursuing, especially if it’s in a genre you figure out you enjoy. But even there take stock of where you’re at. If you read your first two fantasy adventure novels ever and really enjoy them, take that R.A. Salvatore book at 350 pages before diving into a 1200 page tome by George R.R. Martin or a 20 book series by Robert Jordan.
You want to establish that habit of enjoying multiple books before moving to some of the larger books that fans of the genre gush over.
Consider Short Story Collections
Short story collections are a great way to get into reading. You love horror or fantasy but can’t seem to focus on 300+ pages? Not only are the old “Best Horror and Fantasy Stories of X Year” cheap and easy to acquire on sale, especially when they’re 10+ years old, but that’s a book packed with great fiction you can enjoy 10, 20, or 30 pages at a time.
The feeling of accomplishment from finishing stories is great, and chances are at least one or two of those stories will give you “The Experience.” That experience of thinking about how good it was, how original, how interesting the world the author made was or what an amazing twist changed up the ending.
Commit to a One Month Challenge
A one month challenge where you read half an hour or X number of pages every single night helps create a habit. Habits take very little energy as opposed to conscious decisions to do something different.
For these challenges you still want to have a comfortable distraction free space, focus on books you’re most likely to enjoy, and set yourself up for success, but a one month challenge can help set a reading habit and if you enjoy it, that habit will be far more likely to stick.
Set Up Your Cozy Space
One of the joys of reading is cuddling up in a space and being comfortable as the story takes you to a new world. Whether it’s snuggled up in a quilt in the corner of a favorite couch, laying in bed before going to sleep for the night, or having a nice little chair on a screened-in porch, you should have an area that is distraction free and is comfortable to enjoy your reading times.
Reading can take the place of meditation or self-care time, and does so in a way that is much easier and more satisfying for those of us who are always busy or have incredible struggles with traditional meditating.
If in Doubt, Use the 50 Page Rule
The 50 page rule is an old rule of thumb that you give a book 50 pages to catch your interest. If no part of the story, the writing style, the plot, or characters have your interest or attention by then, forget it and move on to another book. This isn’t a bad rule of thumb for beginners.
As you get further into the hobby of reading as entertainment you may move to a 100 page rule, but in the beginning the 50 page rule is a good one.
Keep a Book Journal
This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A date, name of the book, a few lines about what you like, didn’t like, who recommended the book or who you think might like it, whatever feels right.
Being able to look back after a few months and see all the books you’ve read reinforces the idea you’re a reader and fills you with a feeling of accomplishment, which is always great.
Why You Should Learn to Love Reading (Or At Least Give It a Try)
There are many advantages to having reading as a hobby and main form of entertainment. Some of these are general, some are surprising, and some are even health-related. Yes, reading can be good for the health in and of itself!
Just a short list of the benefits you get from reading include:
- Reducing stress
- Reduced blood pressure
- Higher ability to empathize
- Higher IQ
- Higher reading comprehension
- Never need a power source
- Means you can always carry entertainment with you
- Gives a topic to bond with others on
- A library card provides more books than you could read in a lifetime
So give it a shot and enjoy the many wonderful benefits and worlds that a love of reading can (and likely will) open up for you!
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