Friday, August 21, 2009

Why do you read?

If what we eat is what we are, what we read also shapes who we are. We seem to blog more about what we read, but today I'm asking you why you read. What do you hope to get from your reading? Do you want to be entertained, informed, inspired? Or do you read as an escape, as a way to avoid thinking about your life? All of us probably read for many reasons, but for your leisure reading, what is it you expect from a book?

Some people read strictly for information, as in this detail from "The Tilton Family" (1837) by Joseph Davis. This is the kind of reading we do in college, for example, when we need to know the facts. Even a novel can be read this way, if we are studying for a degree in English literature, for example. It's definitely the way we read mathematics, sociology, history, or science textbooks.

Some people read for inspiration. Perhaps they choose memoirs and biographies of famous people in order to be motivated to do as they did. Maybe you read books on how to get in touch with with your inner child -- or with nature. Maybe books become your passport to the world and you choose to read about exotic places.

I read to explore ideas. I've been thinking about this because it's obvious I don't review only the newest books. It's true that I want to know something about the books being discussed by my friends, but sometimes a review is enough knowledge to recommend books my friends would like. I don't feel compelled to read a book just to say I've read it. But I do want to learn, and I do that by exploring ideas and thinking about things.

This may sound exactly like reading for information, but there's a difference. When I reviewed The Time Traveler's Wife a couple of days ago, I mentioned that I've always been fascinated by the idea of time travel. Right now I'm reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Both of these books are novels, but in January I read Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel. I can explore the idea of time travel in fiction and in nonfiction.

In her meditation entitled Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books (1996), Lynne Sharon Schwartz gives her reason for reading:
"I had no greater urge to putter in the kitchen alongside my mother. ... What I liked was sitting on my bed and having a book happen to me" (p. 52).
Spending time with this book was worth it for that sentence alone. Having a book happen to me? Yeah, that seems about right. This is one of those pleasant books that readers enjoy because we like knowing others read as much as we do. Rated 7 of 10, a good book.

1 comment:

June said...

Let me count the :-)