Like us, you’re probably gearing up to settle down for a season of movie-watching on the sofa. It’s one of the great things about this time of year - a chance to cosy up, relax, and escape from real-world worries through being swept up in (or blown away by) other people’s stories. An opportunity to be transported to other eras, places and worlds. While that’s all true, and all very well and good (we’re certainly not knocking the value and joy of films), it’s worth remembering that reading novels does exactly that, and more. Grab yourself some popcorn before reading on to find out what…
1. Books last longer
A film usually lasts a couple of hours, whereas reading a novel might last a whole day, a week, or even months. You experience the story at your own pace, perhaps re-reading particular paragraphs to savour the magic and nuance of certain perfectly-formed sentences. What’s more, after you’ve turned the last page, the best novels tend to linger longer in the mind and heart than films. Perhaps you can’t stop thinking about the characters, the story world, or themes. Particular phrases, images and emotions evoked by words might come back to haunt you (in a good way) at unexpected times. All of which means novels really are the gift that keeps on giving.
2. Books boost the brain (and soul)
Films show you what the director wants you to see. Actors are chosen to represent characters as the movie-makers see them. Actors interpret the script. Settings are presented to you. Atmosphere and desired emotional responses are swayed by music and lighting. In contrast, the act of reading a novel compels readers to use their own imagination - only your mind’s eye will conjure that particular version of a character and their world. Your vision and interpretation of a story is unique to you. In short, reading induces extra layers of personal response - emotional, visual, intellectual, imaginative - making it an immersive experience like no other, movie-watching included. For more on why reading is good for you, read this.
3. The devil (and delights) are in the detail
Continuing with the theme of immersion, novels invite readers to become part of the story. To enter its world, to live it, to feel it, to experience it, and often from multiple points of view at once. In the hands of a skilled writer, this unique capacity of books largely derives from the level of detail that’s shared. Think of how authors evoke emotional states through describing a significant smell or taste a character recalls from childhood, for example. Think of how writers conjure their characters’ backgrounds, how they show subtle character shifts throughout a story. The layers of detail exude magic. In that regard, even the most accomplished of movies can feel a little clunky in comparison with the best written story-telling.
Persuaded? Take a look at our selection of wintry reads to curl up with, check out our 2021 Books of the Year, and peruse some great gift books you could give to your nearest and dearest. Oh, and fear not if you think reading might hamper your hankering for seasonal celebrations - plenty of brilliant books about parties will make you feel like you’re there.