Now BookMuffin is back up and running again I wanted to try a new style of posting, which I can write weekly to think more deeply about books, why we read, and why literature is so important in our lives. This month, I have planned a collection of discussion posts called The Reading Series, which will explore different ways we read, what effect they have on us, and why. Today’s topic is…
Reading to Escape
One of the primary reasons I like to read is to take some time out of my day to forget my worries, and the constant list inside my head of things I need to do. This is the case for many other readers I know as well, and is something the majority of people use reading for at some time in their lives. Reading isn’t the same as watching television, as it allows you to work with your imagination, which is what takes you out of reality, and focus on the fictional world between the page and your mind.
One way, and probably the most popular I have found among other readers, is the use of fantasy fiction as a form of escapism. The aim of fantasy is write in another world, creating almost like a parallel universe to the society we live in; to make us want to be somewhere else. I believe that because fantasy embraces a unique place that is so unlike our own reality, it makes it easier for us as readers to escape. For me, Harry Potter has been the ultimate escapism ‘tool’, making me want to be a part of the world that Rowling has so carefully crafted. Thinking about fantastical realms, if you want to use fantasy as a form of escapism, it is so important the author gets the balance right between fantasy and reality. If it’s too bizarre, it becomes harder for readers to imagine they could escape there, but if it’s too mundane, then it becomes borderline ‘un-fantastic’. Using Potter as an example again, Rowling has the perfect mix of the muggle world, and the use of human emotions, with the fantasy element of magic and depth of understanding of a non-existent world. Magic is an incredibly important device in this series, and fantasy in general, as it gives the reader the opportunity to believe they can be in control of their lives, which is often why readers want to escape from reality in the first place.
Another, slightly different way of thinking about escapism is through reading books in the Young Adult genre. Through my personal reading experiences, this particular genre tackles many topics that can be challenging for a lot of people, and most written in a sensitive manner that allows the reader to fully understand what the character is facing. The way I think of YA as a genre for escapism is being able to connect with characters who may be facing issues in their lives that the reader themselves has been struggling with. This can help put certain ideas into perspective, and things start to be come clearer, especially if the problem is a new occurrence in life they are trying to fully understand and find answers to. This has been particularly evident for me when reading about tackling mental health issues, and seeing how the characters deal with different situations. Reading about this can help in reality and can possibly be applied to the reader’s way of thinking to help them cope in similar situations.
A final route of escapism I would like to discuss today is using the mystery and crime thriller genres. Generally, fiction offers us somewhere to go that isn’t our own lives, but when reading in the crime genre, it gives the reader a sense of purpose. It allows the mind to exercise through trying to figure out who the culprit is before the characters do, and for some crime novels, this can take a considerable amount of work. We try and pick out hints the author gives us, and go digging in the literature for more information. The more we dig, the further we get lost in the story.
Literature has become so significant today because of what readers find within the books they devour. The messages they receive, the problems they solve, the worlds they discover and the roles it allows them to play. Not a lot of this would be easy, or even possible, without access to literature. Using these different types of stories to escape can become a part of a someone who reads, and the reason they want to pick up a book, and I must say I am happy that literature exists for this very reason!
What do you think? Do you use reading to escape from reality for a while? Let me know what you like to read to take your mind off things, and your opinions on this post in the comments!
Until next time…