I don’t read books.

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I’m in quite a dilemma.

For many months I’ve been seeing people all over the internet and in the real world talk about reading books. There are people who love reading, people who don’t, and those who are indifferent. There’s also a third group; the group that doesn’t read books because they’ve moved on, and because this group is such a minority in the 16-18 age group that I currently fall in, it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist. The only people who have truly moved on from reading books are retired pensioners, librarians with a temper, Christian evangelists and Richard Dawkins.

There are people who don’t make friends with people who don’t read books. I absolutely understand that because I happen to be one of them. I’ve never met a truly interesting person who isn’t well read. Historically and in the media, all the famous personalities who are good at their job, are well read. I doubt David Mitchell, Stephen Fry or Neil deGrasse Tyson ever gave up reading altogether, and I doubt even more that they never pondered over the feasibility of the Heart of Gold from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A person who thinks slightly outside the box but keeps just enough of their feet in the box to fit in with less interesting, traditional, and barely competent society. That’s the sort of person I want to be friends with. It’s a bit of an unfair presumption on my behalf, to expect something of others, which in this case is an ability and willingness to read books and not do the same in return, but from my standpoint, it’s a very valid system. Allow me to explain.

If I go to any of the art classes in my school and exclaim that I don’t read books, none of them would ever talk to me again. Which is a pity, because many, if not most interesting people happen to be in the art classes. After music, the books you’ve mutually read are the easiest way to get to know someone, and this leaves me at a disadvantage. The people who read books have moved on from Harry Potter and read the Hunger Games and other sorts of knock-off series like Divergent and Ricky Riordan’s *cough* masterpieces.

Don’t read this paragraph if you’ve not played Pokemon. If any of you have ever played Pokemon around the Gameboy era, you’d get the next analogy. Pokemon Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald are like the Harry Potter series. The hacked ROMs like ShinyGold are the Hunger Games (I’ve never read it, but I heard it’s not bad). They’re very good imitations of the original. The fake ROMs like Chaos Black are Ricky Riordan’s *cough* masterpieces; they work, but they’re an obvious rip-off off the original and not half as fun. Then there’s things like Pearla and Quartz which are horrendously cheap; ones that little kids who don’t know anything about game cartridges buy and then find out that they can’t get passed the first gym because of a missing ledge.

I don’t read fantasy novels anymore because I find them childish, and not in the pleasant, nostalgic, fun way where you bounce rubber balls around a racetrack for fun because you’re six years old. I find them childish in the way that I’d find a pair of socks I would wear when I was four. I would still wear them fondly, but I’m not four. I’ve grown out of those socks just as I’ve grown out of wanting to read fantasy novels. It’s a phase of my life which I’ve passed rather enjoyably. Unfortunately, and I’m not bragging when I say this (I am), most people haven’t. Even the interesting ones.

Maybe it’s just an appreciation for modern works that I lack. Maybe I can’t get myself to accept that the best time to exist would have been the sixties. Maybe I’m stuck in the days when the Spitfire was just twenty five years old and the Lord of the Rings was the most exciting thing you’d read if you were nine. The days when Blue Peter had just started, when the eco-mentalists still had peacekeeping rallies on crossroads instead of spray-painting SUVs in parking lots, when the Aston Martin DB4 was the fastest production car in the world, and when the books people read were not targeted towards adolescents.

To anyone who reads this who thinks that the fact that I don’t read is a direct indication of my lack of intelligence, books aren’t everything. I can not like reading and still be smarter than a person who does. I realise I’m contradicting myself from what I wrote in the beginning, but let me make it clear that we’re the first generation in all of human history to have direct access to knowledge and information without the involvement of paper. The reason Stephen Fry is so eloquent and knowledgeable is because he read books in a time when reading books was the only way to become those things.

And that is why I choose to play GRID 2 and watch Top Gear instead of reading The Wizard of Oz. I get better stories and better visual and auditory satisfaction from the other two, and my English is probably still as good as it can get. So unless you have the exact same interests that I do, which is unlikely, I’ll expect you to be well read, and you can expect me to not know what you’re talking about when you say that I remind of you Peter from Hunger Games.

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Upamanyu Acharya is a writer who doesn't write. Sometimes he's an artist, musician, photographer, physicist or lazy student. His hobbies include being vague, bending rules, time-travel, and embellishment of words. This is his personal blog where he writes on topics ranging from leadership skills to the consistency of jam.

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