Why Escapism is Important

thoughts orangutan

I’ve seen some questions lately about reading in the current climate. How can we focus on books right now? How can we talk about reading at a time like this? And the answer for me is simple- how can you not? When times are uncertain, when we’re facing hardship and when the future is uncertain, there’s nothing better than to get lost in books.

Books can take us far away from reality. They are like shining unicorns, carrying us off into new worlds and different experiences. Reading, for me, has always been a great escape. Beyond understanding the world a bit better and making sense of ourselves, it is also an opportunity to switch off.

That doesn’t mean turning a blind eye or doing nothing- I’m not saying that at all. Just that sometimes life is out of our control, sometimes you can’t mend what’s broken and sometimes we have to make the best of bad circumstances. Sometimes all we can do is take the foot off the accelerator and slow down. And I don’t know about you, but for me that can be a relief.

As important as it is to face up to reality or our emotions, it’s not always the best idea to overwhelm our nervous systems (ie until we become a nervous wreck). We can take limited doses of chaos before we need a little order. That’s why escapism can prove so medicinal. It can help keep our lives in orbit when the planets of fortune don’t align. It can be a healthy coping mechanism. It is an oasis, a calm in the storm, a place to go to recharge. It frees the mind and helps us breathe easier.

sorcery of thornsMore than that: it makes us stronger (as Sorcery of Thorns beautifully illustrated for me recently). Through books, we trek off into fantasy lands and learn how to defeat dragons in our own lives. From quests, we come to realise how to navigate the wilds so we too can be heroes. Then we take those treasures back to our own world. It’s only after acquiring this knowledge that we can be ready to face whatever life throws at us next.

So, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What’s your view on reading as escapism? Is it valuable or a waste of time? Let me know in the comments!

109 thoughts on “Why Escapism is Important

  1. I was just thinking recently about some posts I say about the “responsibilities” we have as readers and bloggers, and I was a bit confused by the whole question. Isn’t it to…read things? Be honest? Be a decent person? But then people starting bringing up our “responsibility” to read the “right” books, to read about current political issues and be informed and encourage others to read those books, etc., and it did make me think about why people read and the importance of escapism and just having fun. I DO think people should be informed, but I’d say that’s someone’s responsibility as, generally, a person not specifically as a *reader*, and you can do that by watching documentaries or the news, listening to podcasts, etc. You don’t have to read books about “important topics” in order to read “correctly.” Reading for fun is important, too.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Ah I’ve heard that line about “responsibilities” a lot as well. I agree- of course people are entitled to read for other reasons and it’s good to be informed, but it’s not the only reason to read and (especially with everything going on in the world) it’s important to have a space that’s fun and to escape to. And yes I agree with you!

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  2. In this insane year, the only thing that is keeping me sane is my hobbies (books of course being one of them). Of course reality is important, but it’s also good to escape from reality every once in a while and just, even it is only for a few hours, to live a little, and smile. Because really this year has left us with very little things to smile about.
    This was a wonderful post, thank you for writing it😊

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I totally agree! Just because we read and escape into the book doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the world or the issues. Like you said, sometimes it gives us a new way of thinking about something or a problem. Same thing happens when I run too. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Reading is defo escapism for me and let’s me just relax and get lost in another world or other peoples problems, their happy endings etc.

    2020 has been a shit storm of a year so far and when COVID all first started I couldn’t bring myself to read but since May I have been reading like a machine and I think that’s helped me get through this period.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I absolutely agree! Reading is basically the only way I’m surviving. With one kid about to start first grade from home and a toddler who has been stuck inside for 5 months, life has become too real, so the escapism reading books provides is literally the only thing keeping me from losing my sanity.

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  6. You are channeling C.S. Lewis in his speech “Learning in War-Time.” He points out that whether or not it might be obvious to us, “all of human life is lived on the edge of a precipice.” In other words, if art (in which I include literature) is somehow invalided by the presence of an injustice or a crisis, then all art is invalidated all the time and human beings should never ever make it or enjoy it because we should always be doing “more important” things. Since that is obvious nonsense, we should feel free to cling to it as a lifeline especially when times are bad.

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  7. If it was not for reading I’d be completely nuts right now! Escapism is so important for me and all I’ve been doing since quarantine started is-well-reading. Helps me stay sane and hold on to something more comforting and exciting. Great post ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  8. “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . . If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” I always thought it’s Tolkien, but apparently – Le Guin 🙂

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  9. Reading for me is all about my ability to concentrate. I have to work at it, there are so many distractions, the 24 hours news cycle, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Sometimes the act of sitting still is difficult. When I get into a book that grabs me, one I can’t put down, I feel my mind and body align something else takes over.

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  10. I think in hard times like 2020 it’s more important than ever to allow ourselves to be immersed in fiction or else we’ll end up with a major burnout. As someone who has a hard time taking a break when things get harder to handle and keeps interacting with content about how bad things are, books and other forms of escapism are really a necessity.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Real life is crazy, and to keep sane I read. Very simple. And honestly there is nothing else I can do at the moment. I’m stuck at home until the numbers go down, and there is literally nothing else to do than read. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Reading is a personal thing like flavours in food, religion, and is done for a variety of reasons: entertainment, education, escapism, information… so I feel that all opinions are valid – but people should not start forcing their opinions on anyone else. I read because I like to experience a variety of genres, and all the things previously mentioned. It is something I do to relax and unwind. It works for me. I know my flatmate is always admonishing my reading habit, but that is because he reads different types of material and for different reasons. To unwind he’ll do something like meditate or mow the lawn. Reading means different things to different people, tastes and reasons change throughout life. As long as is it not hurting anybody (or yourself) you do you. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh yes absolutely! I definitely think it’s a very personal thing. And I agree!! And I couldn’t agree more- it isn’t cool to critique someone for a hobby like reading! And there’s no “right” way to read/ “right” books to read. Absolutely agree! And that’s true. People are complex- they can even have multiple reasons for reading something at a time. Yes!!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I think that reading is absolutely escapism and it serves an important function as escapism. I would have lost my mind many times without it! That escape is necessary to keep us all functioning on a daily basis. But as you point out, it can also inspire activism. They two aren’t mutually exclusive.

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  14. Reading keeps me sane. It’s a way to turn off my mind from the outside world and be consumed with someone else’s fictional life. I recently had one of those moments myself this entire weekend. It’s hard to share that feeling in a review especially when your mind is still on that finished-a-great-book high but it also makes it easy to ignore any negativity for a time. Anyway, well said! Love this post!

    Liked by 4 people

  15. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking for an escape in books. It’s difficult times. And it’s normal for people to want to have an emotional outlet, be that reading or writing or playing Animal Crossing. Moreover, seeking an escape doesn’t mean we aren’t caring. A lot of bloggers have even included ways to donate or care about the world matters in every post. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I think my favourite thing I’ve seen was when someone (alas, not me) said that human beings are complex creatures who can care about more than one thing at a time. There seems to be this prevalent idea that we must only care about one thing at a time and if there’s A Horrible Thing occurring, how dare we find joy. Joy and escapism is what helps us cope with the horrible things when they happen. With COVID for example I’ve been spending a lot of time at work dealing with that and the fallout for employees. When it’s my personal time I want to read books that take me away from it for a while!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. oh yes I completely agree with you!! (funnily enough, I was just saying that to someone else- people are complex and capable of having more than one reason/emotion at a time!!) Ah I know- I see that all the time. But at the same time, how else are we supposed to cope with the horrible things happening? Yes, same!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. The same kind of people who trumpet that we have “more important” things than reading to deal with are the exact same kind of people who try to control everyone else’s lives. And those kind of people are the nucleus around with grows such disparate groups as the KKK, the nazis, communists and the inquisition, grew around.

    Unfortunately, their ideas are so ingrained into them that only violence can truly end them. And most people, myself included, aren’t yet willing to cross that line because you can’t UN-cross that line 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh yes I agree- if nothing else, it definitely comes across as controlling to say “there are more important things than reading” (cos how can anyone be that much of a control-freak to get in the way of people’s hobbies?!) And I definitely tend to see a lot of ideologues making that argument.
      Well I don’t know, but I sincerely hope that there’s a more peaceful solution (that hopefully involves reading 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I always always need my dose of escapism. Yes, facing problems is a necessity but I get easily overwhelmed and it’s just not viable in the long run to not take a break. And not all problems are easily fixable — we need to carefully use our energy and take a break and recharge when it’s possible. Escapism is staying sane for the longer fight.

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  19. Escapism through books is essential! There’s only so much doom and gloom and reality I can take in a day. The darker the times are, the more I need my reading escapes!

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  20. Preach to the choir! I know that “problem books” are important, but we can’t live on a steady diet of them alone. Personally, I read precisely because I want an out. I want to experience all the things I was never able to and never will…for a lot of reasons. So escapism is a good word for me – and if my characters have to endure hardships, at least they are of the variety that I would never encounter in my ordinary life.

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  21. I read for a lot of reasons — but escapism is a big one. I also read to educate myself, which is often the opposite of escapism, but there’s definitely a place for both of those things. Your note that we need an escape in order to make us stronger and/or take our foot off the accelerator is a good one. Everyone needs a break sometimes, and reading can be that break.

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  22. Agree!! Escapism is important and whoever tells me otherwise I don’t know what they are talking about. whether to escape horrible world or to escape daily chores or a row or arguments, if it wasn’t for reading I would have lost sanity by now. I even need a break from blog sometimes and that break is escaping in books. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I think reading is especially important in times of crisis. I know people are very invested right now in people reading the “correct” books and not “just reading fiction” or whatever their particular cause is. However, taking a mental break is important for everyone. If we continually bombard ourselves with information about how terrible everything is because we think taking an hour to focus on something else is some sort of betrayal, we will burn out. I think it’s mentally healthy to escape into a book.

    And books, even fiction, teach us all sorts of important things that are also helpful. Books can be what inspires people to be more empathetic, to think twice before judging, to find bravery, to be kind, to make a difference. Just because books “aren’t real” does not mean they cannot have real effects.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really agree with you. It’s so important to take a break (in fact, a lot of psychologists advise taking breaks from difficult topics/the media etc, especially if a person’s prone to depression or anxiety). Reading something light can be a really good tonic for that as well (especially if you do decide to watch/read/listen to a lot of news for instance).
      Absolutely!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Yes! It’s been harder for me to concentrate on some books lately but it’s also been SUCH A COMFORT to be able to get lost in a story right now. I’m mood reading like crazy. Escapism is important, I think in the right doses it can help us weather the storms life likes to throw at us.

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  25. This is such a lovely discussion eeeeppp! Escapism IS so important. Books for me are supposed to be fun, which is probs why my mood reading can KILL me lmao, but I just read when I want and what I want hehe. But I also just love learning all these important lessons and reading about other people’s lives (even in fictional form) and yet still be reading for fun? If that makes sense. Books can just teach you so much and at the same time we can love them and ENJOY them. Idk if that was making any sense lmao

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! Really agree!! haha I do get what you mean about mood reading haha! And yeah I get that too (I have a weird love of non fic this year and no idea where that’s come from). Very true! haha no worries, it makes complete sense! They’re both fun and educational!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. I definitely think escapism has a bad reputation! I find it can not only help me escape from the trials of reality, but it can also give me perspective on how to deal with said trials. It’s like a safe space to take a step back.

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    1. Ah yes I really agree with you. It’s like, if you’re into escapism, you’re seen as not productive or people argue you’re not facing reality… neither of which are true! It’s can be a really valid coping mechanism. Absolutely agree!

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  27. I completely agree with you! Escapism is needed, especially for those who need a break from the “real world,” so they can recharge. It’s necessary to do sometimes. It’s something I’ve done throughout my entire life, and I have no desire to quit. It’s been a lifeline at times.

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  28. Hasn’t reading always been about escapism? To be immersed into a new surrounding with new friends, allows us to get away from routine and the chaotic world. Not only do we escape, but we also learn from it. Reading is brain food.

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  29. I love this post and couldn’t agree more with everything you say! Escapism isn’t about burying our heads in the sand, it’s about putting our heads on other (make believe or not) people’s shoulders and seeing the world (real or imaginary) from other perspectives. And although I think whatever we read is some sort of learning experience, if the experience is predominantly relaxing rather than “educational” (not sure if that’s quite the right word, but can’t think of a better one right now!) there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! All of us deserve to relax and unwind – especially so now given what the world is throwing at us this year!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! Absolutely!! Yes for sure! And the thing is, with reading, it can be multiple things at the same time (and when it comes to readers, we tend to read a lot anyway, so it’s always possible to mix it up and read some for pleasure and some for educational purposes). And I really agree with you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Yes. If we constantly focused on what was going on in the world we’d all have mental breakdowns within a week. Sometimes you’ve just got to tap out and recharge before you get back into the real world. I mean, essentially that’s what dreams are, right? Our bodies are hard-wired towards escapism.

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  31. The other reason is hope. When we get to the end of a good story, we know the protagonist has gone through their share of hardships, but has (usually) emerged victorious on the other side. Victory doesn’t always mean everything went their way, but there is usually a happy ending. This is often the HOPE we seek. As the expression goes, if it’s not good, it’s not the end yet.

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  32. Escapism feels so necessary right now. It’s how my family members and I deal with life. We have to take breaks from this reality. I will say though, I haven’t been able to pick up dystopian or contemporary literary fiction because that’s too close. Romance and fantasy and rereading mostly. Also manga. Manga is easier to read in general.

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  33. Oh, I absolutely agree. As I was first learning about my anxiety disorder, I found how important taking time to decompress before bed was. I’d teach all day and then come home to grading and/or lesson planning and it was essential to put that away and take an hour or so before bed for myself. I’d put on some mindless TV or, more often than note, read a book. Even when the ol’ anxiety disorder is behaving I still find this as important as I do enjoyable. And in times like these it’s even more paramount! So yeah, here here! Amen! I’m with you ;D.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really relate- when I did CBT, I learnt about how it’s important to take time to decompress as well, especially before bed. And yes, one of my favourite ways to do that as well is to read!! And that’s great it works for you too! Absolutely! And thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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