Hello. I am here to convince you of something in which you probably already believe. We all carry books with us as a course of habit, right? At least most of the time, of that I am sure. But about those other times? Those times when you can’t fit a book in your bag or you want to carry that tiny purse shaped like a chair. Those are the times you should stop and reconsider your choice to leave your book behind. First of all, there are plenty of tiny books, so there is really no excuse except that your purse is a chair and not a purse. Second, that purse is ridiculous. The benefits of always having a book nearby are numerous and I am sure your doctor would agree they are advantageous to not only your health and longevity but your social life as well.
Let’s talk about the health benefits. When you don’t have a book with you, what do you turn to when your commute is long or your friend is 45 minutes late to what was supposed to be an hour-long coffee date? Your phone, if you and I have anything in common. What is your phone full of? Harsh light, damaging to your eyes and maybe your brain cells and probably your skin, too. Reading a book, on the other hand, is definitely good for your brain cells, probably good for your skin, and besides some potential eye fatigue, not bad for your peepers either. 10/10 doctors recommend turning to a book instead of a cell phone in moments of boredom, but studies show that you can’t do that if you didn’t bring your book with you. Further, a book is heavier than a cell phone. When you pick up a book, you are doing some very light exercise. Nothing is better for you than exercise! Except maybe carrot sticks, which will also help with your eye health so you can read well into your 110s. Point is: reading could save your life.
Okay, okay, let’s take a step back for a minute here, lest you accuse me of overdramatizing the potential benefits of always carrying a book with you. Some of my reasons, though no less important (?), are a bit more trivial. Here is a very realistic scenario: you own 400 tote bags. In theory, you like to utilize these tote bags because they have cute messages and drawings and/or you like to show support for the business splashed across the side. The problem is, sometimes you don’t have a tote bag-worthy amount of stuff to carry. Sometimes it’s like okay I need my wallet and a piece of Juicy Fruit, why am I carrying this gigantic sack? The solution is simple: a book will nicely bulk up your tote bag so when you’re walking around, your tote bag will be weighed down appropriately and not blowing in the breeze like a discarded Juicy Fruit wrapper.
Back to the serious stuff: having a book with you at all times solves so many social conundrums. I say this knowing full well that these are not social issues a lot of us have had to contend with much these days. But, the day might (maybe? please?) come again when we sometimes interact with strangers rather than eye them suspiciously and try to move as far away from them on the A train as possible. When that day comes, we will have to go back to judging people based on things other than whether or not they are wearing a mask and/or sniffling. Personally, I want to be judged by the book I am reading and that’s how I prefer to judge others as well. Carrying a book at all times allows us to maintain this important two-way silent social interaction. Is this a person I want to make eye contact with when someone near us starts doing something weird? Would I trust this person to keep an eye on my laptop while I use the cafe bathroom? Oh, you’re reading The Woman in the Window? I am definitely bringing my laptop with me.
Books allow us to curate our public-facing image. I am wearing green eyeliner because I am playful, but I am also an intellectual because I am reading Ulysses. Today I will wear all black and prove that I am as dark as I seem by carrying Eileen. You understand.
The other, more obvious, social upside to always carrying a book is the ability to ignore everyone and everything going on around you. You know how sometimes a kid is running around the park doing something super cute and you’re in the mood to make eye contact with the parent and smile and laugh and maybe even wave at the little kid? Sometimes you’re also not in the mood to do that, but the parent is trying to make eye contact with you anyway. You can pretend to be completely absorbed by The Memory Police, but only if you have The Memory Police with you! A book is a much more effective social repellent than your phone because people are on their phone all the time; at this point I assume that if someone is on their phone they are bored and are just waiting to be interrupted because they have literally nothing else to do. If you’re reading a book, it’s because you chose to do that reading over looking at your phone. I respect that decision and I will find someone else to bother with my observations about “what a nice day it is” and “do you know where the nearest coffee is?”
Listen, my book-carrying people, I assume you have a book on you at this very moment, but if you don’t and you left the house thinking, “eh, I am not really going to have any time to read today” or “eh, I’m just driving to this one specific errand and back, I don’t need to bring Middlemarch,” you have not considered the full range of advantages always carrying a book with you offers. What if you get stuck waiting for a train to pass? What if you run into your high school biology teacher in line at Lowe’s? These are both problems that could have been solved if you had Middlemarch stowed away next to your Juicy Fruit.