“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which
gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety,
ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”
– A C Grayling, Financial Times
(in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)
A friend sent me a link one day to an article written by a blogger titled “I Am Not Your Manic Pixie Bookworm.” It was an article that promoted the idea that reading, once a tool for female empowerment, is now being used as a tool for female exploitation. She cites the existence of poetry brothels, naked reading nights, and “Reading Is Sexy” t-shirts** as suggesting that female intellectualism is wrongfully being objectified and that “it is the act of reading that gets fetishized, not the reading material itself.” (Oh, if that blogger could catch a glimpse of the photos I post below…she’d barf and claim her theory correct).
I say – who cares what you’re reading?! It just matters that you’re reading! I’m not here to promote the attending of naked reading nights and poetry brothels to boost your literacy ability, but I personally think reading is sexy. Why? Because, contrary to popular myth regarding the modern-day woman, I am highly attracted to the human brain and the (sometimes useless) information it holds. I want to know what you know, how you know it, where you read it, and why you retained that kind of information. It says a lot about you and I want to engage in a really, really, amazing conversation with you.
So when I say “reading is sexy,” I’m not fetishizing the act of it—our over-sexualized culture is guilty of doing that. Rather, it’s your brain that I think is sexy. I like to learn new things, and although I can easily learn about anything from a book, I would rather opt for human interaction. There is nothing sexier to me than the mutual exchange of picking apart each other’s brain (pardon the literal visual).
I recently completed a photo shoot with two very talented photographers, Joe Cha and Jason Ra. I could have shown you MRI images of my brain but I decided against it due to the fact that the abstract shapes and shadows might either confuse you or scare you. So instead, I opted for beautiful scenery and a book in my hand.
Culture can skew these images into something far beyond my original intent. They can claim it “fetishizes the act of reading” and “objectifies female intellectualism.” Those objections don’t change the positive outcomes that reading well has contributed to children, their future, families, and the ability to rise above. Most people do not realize that their literacy is strongly linked to their ability to find, keep and advance in employment, nor do most realize how literacy directly affects their health and the literacy of their children.
Reading is, by far, the one thing I learned how to do as a child that I am the most grateful for. The purpose of my blog has always been to encourage and motivate others to make reading a regular part of daily life (whether it be reading the morning paper, an informative magazine, or—and I won’t judge you—romance novels). I am grateful for having learned to read because it has given me opportunities that I would not have otherwise experienced had I not honed my ability to read, comprehend, and write in a way that reading books has influenced.
So, my bottom line is this: If you can read, you possess the capability to be anything you want to be. As my tattoo suggests, “to read is to fly”—you can literally soar beyond your circumstances because of your ability to read. So let today be the day you start to read well. Do you want to experience an adventure without having to leave where you are? Then lose yourself in one within the pages of fiction. Do you want to be left inspired? Read a true story that motivates you to change your life for the better. Don’t take reading for granted. There are many countries in this world with very low literacy rates and whose women and children are not allowed to read, either by culture or by government. Knowing how to read cannot be undone; it is not a “use it or lose it” scenario like learning an instrument or a new language. This is why Mark Twain once said, “The person who doesn’t read has no advantage over the person who can’t.”
So carpe librum! Seize the book!
**DISCLAIMER: If you follow my Instagram handle @guada_dls, you may have noticed that #readingissexy is a hashtag that I’ve consistently used on my photos. Please know that my use of that hashtag has no connection and no affiliation whatsoever to this “movement.”