Why Read: What I Talk About When I Talk About “Pleasure”

This is an essay by Brandon Monk.

Please note: This essay originally appeared in multiple parts but has been compiled on medium.com as one 21 minute read.

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”― Stephen King

Many of our teachers and schools have failed us. They took the fun out of reading by making it an assignment. They should have showed us another side to reading. The side that makes reading a superior form of entertainment. Yes, even superior to TV.

I’ve talked about how there are really only three reasons to read. I stand by that. I want to add, though, that in the hierarchy, fun ranks at the top. Reading is fun. Fun is the first reason to read. If you’re lucky, you won’t need another reason. If you always read for fun it won’t be work. You do enough work. You need release. Reading is release. Make fun your first goal. If you think you aren’t learning anything because you’re reading for fun, you’re wrong. Learning will come.

Why is Reading Fun?

I could offer an emotional appeal here. Books smell great. Their smell brings back memories. Their words remind you of a lost parent or grandparent. You may have been read to as a child. Those are good reasons to read, but they are not the primary reason.

Experience New Worlds

Reading is fun because it reminds you there is some part of the world you have not seen. New worlds are made in books. If you had the power to travel at a moments notice to any place you wanted without leaving the comfort of your living room, would you use it? If you answer yes, then you must read. Books are time travel devices. Books are transportation. Books are personal introductions to the greatest thinkers.

Books Are Workouts for Your Senses

You want to experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes the world offers. Books help you practice experiencing what your senses should enjoy in new places. Books introduce you to new sensations. They also give you words so you can share the sensation.

Writers are keen observers. They have been testing and naming sensations their whole lives. A book is a writer’s way to share a sensation she experienced.

Reading is Practice Being Present

Being present is being alive. Being alive is fun, right?  Have you ever tried to read without being present? If you are distracted you can’t read. Reading leaves you no choice in the matter. You will be present and enjoy yourself.

Reading is a More Difficult Pleasure

Not all pleasure comes from easy tasks. Reading is a more difficult pleasure. It is a more difficult pleasure, but there can be fun in understanding something that requires your full attention and effort. Like difficult exercise that tears muscle fibers to build them stronger, reading difficult material prepares the brain to tackle harder tasks. Have you ever felt satisfied by pushing yourself beyond your physical limits? That is fun. Experience the mental equivalent. Read.

Read to Uncover Plot

Reading can be as hard as struggling to understand an expertly written piece of imaginative literature or as easy as strumming the pages to gather the pieces of a simple plot. I’ve talked about uncovering plot. Uncovering an interesting plot is fun. We desire to see stories unfold. Our lives are stories unfolding.  A great book reveals the lives of others in the same way, right before our eyes and at your own pace.

Read to Laugh

Sometimes, you can even read to laugh when a laugh is what you need. Books deliver. If you let them, books read your mind and give you exactly what you need. Have you ever laughed from what you read? If you answered no, you should experience it. If you answered yes, share how much fun it is in the comments or with a friend.

There is a book for every sense of humor.

Read for Social Pleasure

There is social pleasure in reading. Pull out your favorite book on the subway. Let people see you read. Your reading communicates to the people around you some things about who you are. You are a reader. You read despite what others may think or say. You take advantage of your time on earth. Show off who you are.

Share what you read as well. Like a well-watered rose can’t wait to show its flower you can’t wait to share what you’ve read. Before you had nothing to share, you might have thought. Now, with reading, you have an entire library to share.

Read to Experience Multitudes

Walt Whitman says, we “contain multitudes.” True. A multitude of interests, a multitude of desires, a multitude of thoughts. Everything we do is in multitudes. Books satisfy some of those multitudes by being multitudes themselves. One day when we wake up we may have a very different interest than then one we had the day before. Books are there to satisfy those multitudes in the most efficient way we can imagine. Books satisfy multitudes, not at the surface level, but in enough depth that our thirst is quenched.

Multitudes are the opposite of monotony.

Read to Never Be Bored

I have never met a bored reader. Being bored is the opposite of fun. One day you may retire. You may have a day with nothing planned. One day you may need to escape day to day life.  Some days I joke about wanting a shed in the backyard with nothing in it. A place where I can go and sit. Some people have vacation houses or deer camps. All of these are “places all your own.” Books can be your “place all your own” until you get a real one. Then, when you get a real one you can take your books with you.

There are other reasons to read. We will talk about education and perspective, but this week do some reading for fun.

Why is reading fun to you? Leave a comment.

Photo by Paul Jarvis.

11 Replies to “Why Read: What I Talk About When I Talk About “Pleasure””

  1. This essay made me smile, and you’re right, reading is FUN! So is talking about reading, writing about reading, deciding what to read next, recommending a book, and yeah, going to that “place all your own.”

  2. FUN…yes, definitely, reading is fun, and so much more! I consider the first book I read which was not part of any school assignment–The Odessa File, as one of the most important books I ever read. It triggered my love for reading. All because it was fun! From then on, I have devoured more books and have never stopped.

    I love your blog Brandon. I’ll keep coming back here.

    Thanks for coming up with this idea of a blog.:)

    1. Thank you for the very kind feedback and for sharing your experience with reading for pleasure. I think everyone needs that experience to really enjoy reading. It can come from assigned reading, but my experience was that it came from something I found on my own. From there, I realized I could carve out a special space in my life for pleasure reading. Now, I’ve gone back and forth on being able to keep that space, but I always love it when I’m in it.

      Again, thanks for the comment and for following the blog. I hope to hear more from you.

      1. Thanks for the warm welcome.
        Your blog is recommended by Sophie Lizard of ‘Be a Freelance Blogger’ Blog.
        I never expected I’ll find a blog like yours here.
        I love it here.

        Keep it up Brandon!

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