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Why Do You Read?

Why do you read? I believe that serious readers read for the same reason, which I will try to flush out here.

I read because for a while I’m transported someplace else. I can fight dragons, I can elude a killer, I can live on the cusp of the turn of the 20th century, I can live thousands of years before Christ. If I read a thriller, my adrenaline gets going and my palms get sweaty. I can be touched or made to feel caloused by a single character. I can cry, I can laugh, I can hope, I can believe. All of this happens when I read.

A strange thing happens when I read. I never remember actually reading. I never remember turning pages, and it would take little convincing to make me believe that I don’t actually ever read, but that I am transported to another world and watch as a story unfolds.

Oddly enough, reading is a way for me to connect with other people. Some people connect because they both have kids, they both work for the same employer, they both collect the same Elvis paraphenalia. I connect over books we’ve both read and characters we both like and dislike.

I’ve always thought that why I read was best summed up by this scene from The Neverending Story, though it plays out only slightly different in my head. I’ve bolded the sentences that best represent my feelings on reading.

[Bastian] What’s that book about?

[Book Store Owner] Oh, this is something special.

Well, what is it?

Look, your books are safe. While you’re reading them, you get to become Tarzan or Robinson Crusoe.

But that’s what I like about them.

But afterwards you get to be a little boy again.

What do you mean?

Listen. Have you ever been Captain Nemo trapped inside your submarine while the giant squid is attacking you?

Yes.

Weren’t you afraid you wouldn’t escape?

But it’s only a story.

That’s what I’m talking about. The ones you read are safe.

And that one isn’t?

Don’t worry about it.

Why do you read?

| Tags: , , 15 comments »

15 Responses to “Why Do You Read?”

  1. Christine

    I just posted on the same question, actually. My answer is here: http://shereadsbooks.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/tell-me/

    [Reply]

  2. Megan

    My answer almost turned into a poem and I see it being cross posted as an actual blog entry in the future.

    I read to see beautiful language float across the page, fluttering against my soul.
    I read to laugh.
    I read to escape.
    I read because it makes me feel accomplished.
    I read to learn about writing and literature, and also to learn about life.

    [Reply]

  3. kegsoccer

    Hi, found you via LibraryThing and thought I’d stop by ๐Ÿ™‚ Your blog looks great (same style as mine actually- so better than great!) and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    [Reply]

  4. lisamm

    Do I need a reason?? LOL

    [Reply]

  5. Amy

    I was thinking about posting on this at some point because I was thinking about how I know people who don’t read fiction and don’t watch TV and don’t see many movies, and how I simply can’t fathom not having other people’s stories (even if they are made up) be a part of my life.

    I mean obviously I have my own life that I’m living and my own friends and family, but at the same time, I have all of these stories that are in my mind and part of my life, too, mostly from reading. It has always been that way from playing make believe Nancy Drew in the second grade to dedicating hours of my life to discussing Harry Potter or blogging about books. I just can’t imagine it any other way.

    I hope that makes sense. I read because I want to invite other stories into my life.

    [Reply]

  6. Jennifer

    I was going to answer your question here, but when I hit the third paragraph I decided I’d better just write my own post. In a nutshell, I read for the transportation effect too, although I’ve recently started reading more for other reasons – learning with non-fiction for example.

    I love the bit from The Neverending Story. Seems I need to rewatch it. The part about becoming Tarzan reminded me of this description of reading: “Reading is thinking with anotherโ€™s head instead of oneโ€™s own.” (Arthur Schopenhauer) One of my favourites. =)

    [Reply]

  7. curlywurlygurly

    hmmm…i read because it’s better than watching tv. ๐Ÿ™‚

    [Reply]

  8. Heather

    I so completely agree! It seems that several of us have posted about this topic recently … hey, great minds think alike! I love what you said about living in another world, and not remembering ever turning the pages. I feel the same way. But I also read to stretch my mind and bring out parts of me that even I didn’t know where there. Feel free to check out my post on this topic if you like. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    [Reply]

  9. jeane

    I read, therefore I am.

    [Reply]

  10. Kim L

    I read because I need it to survive. Okay maybe not literally. But the minute I sit down for a minute, I want to read. And once I start, I can’t stop. It’s a vicious cycle. But it makes me happy.

    [Reply]

  11. Nancy, aka Bookfool

    I’m an escapist reader; I love traveling to new worlds. And, yes, fighting dragons. Not gonna do that in real life. My real life is actually quite painfully dull. I’d go nuts without books.

    [Reply]

  12. Julie

    Great post and I love your blog! It has now become one of the sights that I check daily. When I was thinking about my response I thought of so many reasons. I read because it is part of my job. I am a kindergarten teacher and there is nothing better than sharing a great book with 5 year olds and watching them enjoy it so immensely! I also read to escape as I tell my kids reading helps me have a mini-movie in my head. I read to learn about other people, history and to make myself a better teacher. Reading also helps me connect to other people. Finding a book that someone else absolutely loves and talking about it like we were really there is fabulous and creates an unexpected bond with that person/s.

    [Reply]

  13. Jessica

    I’ve always read for the escapist aspects of it. I’m not a visual learner, I’m more interested in the words and how they create an atmosphere. I also read to increase my experiences of other places and peoples and ideas. I hate when a day goes by when I don’t get to read. I also read for the privilege of answering “yes” when someone asks if I’ve read this or that.

    Great blog (and challenges). Thanks.

    [Reply]

  14. Kathleen

    Hmm, not sure why it didn’t show up!
    I’m at http://kbookreviews.wordpress.com

    [Reply]

  15. bybee

    I read for the same reason that smokers smoke.

    [Reply]

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