There are few things better than meeting up with a friend and geeking out together over a book. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by many fellow book lovers and the opportunity for geek outs happen often. So when I am confronted with someone that is super cool, interesting, and intelligent who says they don’t like to read, it throws me a bit. Generally, there is a bit of an awkward silence and I stumble over some poorly chosen words before spitting out, “Well, why?” I’ve heard all the reasons; short attention span, prefers movies, prefers video games, reading is hard, reading takes too much time, and the classic, there are no books I like. Sometimes it’s a friend trying to bait me into a reaction, but often they are completely serious. For whatever reason, they don’t like reading and they have no interest in trying to change that. For the most part, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have no interest in trying to change that either. In fact, I value my non-reading friends in an extra special way.
I’ve used reading to experience the worlds that I might not otherwise have access to, to learn how to tell a story, and to dive into someone else’s troubles for an afternoon. I do it so often that it’s easy to forget that my way of accomplishing those things is not the only way. My friends and family that don’t like to read have taught me so much about arts, hobbies, and stress relief techniques that I never would have tried if not for them. I’ve never been terribly interested in video games but one of my friends insisted I try one. I won’t say I’m a gamer now, by any means, but I think I get it. It’s the same sort of escape, experience, and world view that reading facilitates for me and there are some spectacularly done video games out there.
I have some friends that are so passionate about a sport, when they come home after a long day of work instead of kicking back and reading a book, they go climb, bike, run, or swim until they physically cannot keep going. It’s a drive to find adventure that inspires me every day to be more active, but I’ll never reach their level of athleticism because my passion is always going to be books. They’ve taught me new sports, taken me on adventures, and displayed dedication that makes me proud to know them. Without them, my active non-reader friends, to balance out my life I wouldn’t have any stories of my own to tell.
My non-reader friends are fantastic people. They read the news, experience the world, introduce me to art and sports, but most importantly they appreciate what I can bring to the table with my passion for reading. I know they won’t ever read that book I recommended to them, but they will listen to me summarize it and explain why it’s a story that’s relevant to the conversation. They force me to consider what I’m reading with a more critical eye. Before I start talking about a book I have to remind myself what themes within it are relevant. They aren’t particularly interested in the craft of writing and they don’t care about why the author is a genius or the character is unlikable, they want me to translate what I’ve read into conversation we can both take part in. The habit of taking my conversational partner into consideration while choosing what I say is one that takes work. It’s a practice that is largely missing from many of the political debates we’re seeing these days. Books can display this conversational art form but my friends that don’t read force me to put it into practice.