Why Do You Read?

Sorry I didn’t post last week — I was busy standing in a line for 6 hours in 80-degree heat to see The 1975. It was worth the wait! Amazing show. 10/10 would recommend.

One of the worst questions someone can ask me is, “Why do you read?” It’s not that I hate the question — it’s that it’s such a loaded question, I don’t know how to answer it. I especially didn’t know how to answer it as a kid, when all the other kids would ask me this question. They enjoyed P.E. class, recess, and playing outside after school; I enjoyed sitting in my room reading page after page, hanging out at the library in the Kids section, and scouring the earth for anyone who shared the same interests as me. Suffice it to say, I had very few friends. When my mom took me out of school and started homeschooling me (well, it was a virtual school, but it was practically homeschool), I’m pretty sure I had, like, 1 friend. And she didn’t like to read, either. I’ve been alone in my love of literature for most of my life. Everyone always asked me, “Why do you like to read so much?” I didn’t really know, so I told them I simply enjoyed it. My mom always criticized my love of reading, especially when I got into high school and we moved out in the middle of nowhere (AKA Vinton County, OH). She said I “spent too much time on my ass,” that it was “a waste of time,” and that, worst of all, I was reading “nonsense fiction” and wasn’t learning a damn thing.

Well, I have thought long and hard over the years about why I love to read. I spent 3 years studying literature in college, on top of the many years I’ve been reading for fun rather than just class assignments. This may be different for everybody, but I think I’ve come up with a few good responses to the question, “Why do you read?” This is for you, childhood friends and foes, and for you, mom.

Why I Like to Read

1) Because it’s fun

Yes, this was my initial response when I was younger, but it still remains true and the overarching reason why I do it. Reading is fun, and anyone who says otherwise hasn’t found the right book yet. Why is it fun, you ask? I’ve got a lot of reasons why it’s fun, and they’re also, coincidentally, reasons why I read.

2) Because I can go on adventures

How many of you grow bored with your life? For the majority of my life, my day-to-day activities went as follows: wake up, get on my desktop computer and work on my coursework for the day, eat lunch, more class, eat dinner, go to bed. Honestly, that’s how life goes when you’re homeschooled — your whole life is your home, your family, your computer. When I read, I got to leave not only my bedroom, but the city of Gahanna, the state of Ohio, the country of America — hell, sometimes I went to magical, far away, made-up places, and it was beautiful. Through reading, I am able to experience things I can only dream of. And sometimes, I can experience simple, mundane things that are actually quite magical, too. People only live one life — their experiences make up their life. But, as many of you know from George R. R. Martin’s famous quote, “A reader lives a thousand lives.” We as readers can experience so much more and do so much more than those who do not read. You can argue that it’s not real, that it’s fake, that it’s only temporary, but I will argue that experiences through books are just as real as your memories. As the Greek philosopher Augustine believed, there is only one time period: the present. The future is simply one’s current expectations of a later date; the past is simply one’s current memories of a previous date; therefore, only the present exists, and it exists constantly, every second of every day — you are living in the present. Books can be read over and over again, relived again and again. They can be recalled upon, just like a memory. They can affect you, your way of thinking, your life. Tell me, how is that not real?

3) Because I can become someone else for a while

There are days where I love who I am as a person; there are days where I am content with myself. Most days, though, I hate who I am, and I think that has a lot to do with my anxiety and my low self-esteem. I like to read because being someone other than myself, just for a little while, is so freeing. No more anxiety, no more embarrassment, no more self-doubt — I am someone else and it is amazing.

4) Because I can relate to someone

Sometimes, the opposite is the case. Sometimes, I find characters that are so similar to myself that it’s just as amazing. When that happens, it’s okay that I’m not someone else — it’s just as inspiring to find someone that I relate to on such a deep level. I don’t have many friends, and I know it’s my own fault. I don’t relate to people very well, so I find it hard to connect and be friends with people. Characters in the books I read become my friends. And I’m okay with that. They’re always going to be there. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is no friend as loyal as a book,” and he was correct, just as there are no friends as loyal as the characters in those books.

5) Because I learn something from every book

As I mentioned earlier, my mom criticized me for reading, especially because I enjoy reading fiction. She knew what kind of books I liked in middle and high school (YA, vampire stories, etc.), and instead would buy me nonfiction like A Child Called It. “You don’t learn anything from bullshit vampire books,” she’d tell me, but I disagree. I think every book teaches you something (even the bad ones). You can learn just as much from a fictitious story as you can from an educational book. I’ve learned a lot by reading fiction over the years. As someone who has social anxiety and was homeschooled for the majority of her life, reading these books has helped me become a person.

There are plenty other reasons I like to read, but I’m just going to digress for now. Perhaps I’ll make another post like this in the future, but I think I’ve made my point. These are the reasons why I like to read. I’m sorry if I got a little too personal, but I didn’t know how else to make my points. Hope you enjoyed this week’s segment!

2 thoughts on “Why Do You Read?

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