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Why Do You Read?

Someone asked me last week, after seeing me on a bench with yet another book: “Do you actually like to read?”

I’m not sure why else he thought I’d be doing it, although for him, sitting down and opening a 200 page book doesn’t happen outside of one of the circles of hell.

Empathy can be useful, but I couldn’t even begin to empathize with this madman. But I did try to answer his question, although I certainly didn’t convert him.

I read because:

  • I enjoy it
  • I learn from it
  • It teaches me things about myself
  • I am curious
  • It is the only way to do all the things I want to do, but may never have the time or money for (thanks Tom Clancy for the paraphrased quote)
  • I don’t feel like me if I don’t do it
  • It is an addiction that actually improves me
  • It helps me write better
  • It is a way for me to thank the writers who have enriched my life
  • It gives me something consistent in my life–the words never change, although my interpretations do
  • I value intelligence
  • there’s more, of course…

Books are not a substitute for experience, but can be complementary to it.

I read because I can’t stop.  I read because my parents started taking me to the library when I was about two days old.

I read because it’s what I love to do.  Nothing else makes me feel the way a great book does.

“That’s really weird,” he said.


How about you? Why do you do it?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Heather August 20, 2012, 10:20 am

    I have always read. I can’t imagine a life or a time when I didn’t read. Sometimes I read for fun, other times because it helps me with my job, but I am always reading and always learning. Perhaps the person who seemed perplexed at your choice of recreational activity has difficulty reading? I find that is quite often the case with some of my students. To me (and you, too) reading is easy and fun. To some, reading is difficult and a chore. That’s ok, though. I feel that way about Math.

  • Misty August 20, 2012, 10:54 am

    All of these reasons, and more, like you said. There was a year or two in my recent past where I was too busy to read more than 2-3 books in the year. I started to doubt my self-identity as a reader. Thankfully I am back to a place where I can read much more often.

    I am praying that I can pass on this love to my children!

  • mole August 20, 2012, 5:56 pm

    “We read to know we’re not alone”. A quote attributed to C.S. Lewis. I agree with the thought. It’s not the only reason I read, but it is one of the deepest and most important. Reminds me of another quote, this one about writing: “Letters mingle souls”. Same feeling.

  • Spencer August 21, 2012, 7:51 am

    I agree with all of the above, including the comments, especially the addiction concept. I can’t stop! I wish I could do it more, and resent everything that gets in my way. Also, it’s who I am.

  • Gustavo | Frugal Science August 21, 2012, 9:16 am

    I get to live parallel lifes (and see how it feels to be another person).

  • Daisy August 21, 2012, 10:44 am

    I think it was Mark Twain who said “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” My own memory – I know this isn’t the exact quote.

  • Eric | Eden Journal August 22, 2012, 11:34 am

    I used to be like that guy. I blame it high school english. Being assigned books not of my choosing and then painstakingly disecting them into little litterary bits and pieces really took the joy out of reading.

    I had to recapture a love of reading on my own, and mostly did it by reading a bunch of books from classic literature. I found that reading could actually be fun and entertaining. Now I read a lot more and for many of the reasons you described.

  • Audrey August 27, 2012, 9:37 pm

    I love reading because it takes me places I would never be able to go otherwise (unless we figure out a way to time-travel).
    One of my favorite books as a child was Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I remember thinking how different life was back then and how I would feel if I had to eat game or churn my own butter.

    Entire worlds have been invented in literature and because of that, we are able to travel extensively. Who wouldn’t wanna go to Narnia? Or to Middle-Earth?

    Reading is also an opportunity to get to know people and live and learn from their experiences without actually having to go through them. Characters are often based on real-life:people who are faced with difficult choices and suffer the consequences of poor judgment or benefit from their wise decisions.