Have you ever thought about why you read?
It’s probably no surprise that I’m a voracious reader. From the time I first learned how I’ve had a book in my hand as often as I can. Driving (as a passenger of course), before bed, before work, anywhere I have to wait (can sometimes get a whole chapter in at a doctor’s office) and any time there’s a few spare minutes, I’ll crack open whatever book I’ve got on the go.
Walking into a bookstore gives me the same feeling as a kid in a candy store. Row after row of books crying out to be read is as tempting a seductress as a bike shop is to my husband. For non-readers, there’s just no way to describe it.
Good writers draw you into a time and place you’ve never seen, introduce and immerse you into their characters’ lives and then create conflict - physical, moral or emotional (or all three). Good writers care about their readers. They care about the readers’ experience and enjoyment. They long to transport you somewhere outside yourself.
As a writer, I want to emulate them. I want to captivate and intrigue you. I want to create a story to lose yourself in, characters to keep you company, to learn about a place you’ve never been to, and of course, to entertain. (That and to write a bestseller they later make into a movie with A-list celebrities!)
For most of us reading is simply for pleasure. It removes us from the structure, stress and routine of our daily lives. We leave ourselves and enter another setting, time zone or place in history, and inhabit other people’s reality. It takes us away from the familiar and we lose ourselves for a few minutes, or a few hours if we’re lucky. It’s a private endeavour that no one else can interpret exactly the same. Sometimes we’ll learn something along the way and sometimes we learn about ourselves.
We all read books for different reasons. Some see books as a mirror into their soul, others as a window into the lives of others. Some use books as an escape hatch to take their minds off things, others as a flying carpet to go to far-off realms beyond their imagination. For some, books are a learning tool, especially non-fiction, and still others seek to see their values reinforced in the lives of the characters on the page.
For many adult readers, I suspect it’s a combination, one that changes depending on how we’re feeling, what’s happening in our lives, and our own passage through the years.
During a particularly bad period in my life when I was much younger, I wallowed in sad songs about lost love. But the same reaction didn’t translate to books. I couldn’t bear to read anything other than light stories where I could reliably predict the happy ending. Strangely, the same holds true now when I’ve got a bad cold. As though somehow runny noses and sore throats will only get worse with deep emotional truths on the human condition!
I tend not to look for life advice in a book. The act of reading is solace enough for life’s small dramas. But there are times when it happens without even knowing.
We are bombarded by popular culture. Reading allows us to recognize what is true in human nature, to challenge our values and assumptions, to make sense of the absurd, to discover new language, to feel less lonely, more connected, and to see the beauty of our common humanity.
Good books can inform, help heal, question authority, inspire, uplift and educate. We don’t just love to read - we love to talk about it. To share our experience, our insight, our discoveries, to see ourselves and know that we are not alone.
Why do you read?