A lot of people who love books (including me) often write about why they love books and reading. It’s a wonderful way to explain to others what moves you. But there is a great irony to this.
Think about yourself as a reader: do you love to read because books transport you to other places and times? Because they allow you to experience events you never would have experienced? Because you meet fascinating characters that don’t exist in your life and you learn from them by how they respond to the trials and tribulations they face? Yes? Me, too. So when one writes about why they love books, it’s never about what great paper weights or door-stops they make. They write their answers to the above questions, which are approximately the same for everyone who reads for pleasure. Sure, some may prefer Middle Earth or the galaxy far, far away, while I prefer to roam the grounds of Longbourne and Pemberley, but the fact that we’re transported elsewhere remains the same.
The second irony is that as readers, we are the ones reading the article about why that person loves reading. The first few times I read such articles I felt a strong connection to their authors, and I basked in the bookish camaraderie of someone else who gets it. After awhile such articles become redundant: Fascinating settings? Check. Universal themes? Check. Dashing characters? Check.
What I want to know now is how and why people came to reading. How did you learn to read? What are your first memories of books? Once you learned to read, why did you choose to read? For example, when you could have been outside playing with other kids, riding bikes, building forts, playing dolls, or as an adult, going to game night, clubbing, cocktail parties, why did you choose to plop down with a pile of bound paper with printed words on it instead? Because, as readers, we need to be honest with ourselves that we have spent an inordinate part of our lives reading. So why did we forsake all others for our books?
Since I can’t demand that you share without sharing first, here goes: My mom read to me constantly, and my first memories of books include her reading Corduroy and Would You Like To Play Hide and Seek In This Book With Lovable, Furry Old Grover?. She also supplied 11 different voices for the word bubbles that Grover tried to hide behind– quite a feat. There are few different reasons I chose to read: my parents frowned upon too much TV watching; I was an only child and reading is a good way to wile away the time; and my hearing. Reading is one of the few times that I actually know what’s going; I know who said what and why. I laugh when things are funny, not because everyone else is laughing, so I should, too. Reading goes at my pace, and I am in control. It’s very comforting to me that way.
Okay, readers, ‘fess up! What are your reasons for reading?