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?
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?