Why Read?

This is an essay by Anjali Amit.

We read to know that we are not alone. –C.S. Lewis

Why read? There are so many other ways to get information and entertainment. Truth to tell, there are so many avenues clamoring for our attention that we will be well put to ask: “Why read?”

Let us begin by acknowledging that we do read, a lot. Most of the information posted on the web is in the form of words and sentences to be read. Videos and slideshows are a recent phenomenon, and comprise a very small percentage of the internet content. Driving directions, repair manuals, recipe books — all make us pore over the written word.

Why then, after all this reading, do we need to read more? Because of the very fundamental difference in the nature of the two. One form of reading is finding information we need to conduct the activities of daily life — information gathering. The other form of reading is wool gathering — hoping, dreaming, imagining. It is this other reading, for pleasure, that we are analyzing here.

Reading is Relaxation

Picture yourself with a little spare time. You see a book lying around. Before you know it you are deep in an adventure in the Amazon jungles, or winging your way through the outer planets. This is an activity that takes you out of your daily routine.You continue reading because you want to, not because you have to.

Reading is fun

We read according to our interests. The scientifically-inclined will pick up a book by Arthur C. Clarke, maybe, or Ray Bradbury or any of the many writers of this genre. If you are a legal-eagle you would go to John Grisham’s books. If you like mysteries that also teach esoteric facts then Michael Crichton is your man. There is a book for every taste.

Reading is Socializing

Did you think reading is an isolating activity? Think of all the times you have shared your experience of an interesting read with friends and sometimes strangers too. The times when there is an awkward silence in the conversation, and book discussion helps restore the flow. Reading helps you to connect with your fellow men. Book clubs are the ultimate socializing experience.

Reading is Creativity

Like Max of the book Where the Wild Things Are, you create a life in the mind. Max is sent to his bedroom without any supper. The bedroom famously changes into a forest. The walls fall away and the wild things roam free. A book sets your imagination free to roam where it will and create what it wants.

Reading is Freedom

While it sets your imagination free a book also allows you to be your true self. A book does not care for social niceties. Geek or goofball, a book opens its pages to all.

So, why not read?

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Anjali Amit does not subscribe to the ‘eat to live or live to eat’ debate. She reads to live. Occasionally she writes stories for children, and has been known to create a crossword or two.

Photo: Some rights reserved by erin m.

20 Replies to “Why Read?”

    1. Laura,

      Aren’t we grateful there will always be reasons to read, no matter the genre, no matter the medium we read on. So, despite those who argue the pros and cons of fiction, let us just read on.
      Anjali

  1. There will never be a multi-media show from any computerized source that so efficiently and effectively stimulates the consciousness as reading well-crafted literary work. This is mind-to-mind communication. The author can describe what a character thinks and feels, in relation to the thinking and feeling of other characters, and the environment in which they are doing it. The fact that so few Americans read is a national tragedy that impacts negatively on everything else we do.

    1. Bart,

      You are right: reading is communication between minds. Writing is what the writer’s mind gives, reading is what the reader’s mind takes. That is why you can get myriad different reviews of the same book.

      Reading does have a positive impact on life, and blogs like this help promote good reading habits.
      Anjali

  2. Some of the best and most constant companions of my childhood were my books, transporting me to worlds far beyond my bedroom walls and windows. I always tell aspiring writers that if you want to be great at your craft, you must first – and always – be a voracious reader.

    1. Christina,

      When books become companions they create a secure world in which you lose yourself. Isn’t that one of the greatest gifts that reading bestows? You must have had many, many adventures with these constant companions.
      Anjali

  3. Thanks for posting this article! Reading is also a form of mental exercise , it helps us fight the deterioration of our brain cells.

    1. Athena,

      True indeed. “Use it or lose it’ applies as much to the brain as to the body. Folk wisdom always held that an active brain is a healthy brain. New neurological studies support that thinking. Detailed experiments showed that reading coordinates the many different parts of the brain that are involved in the process.

      Thanks for providing another good reason for reading.
      Anjali

    1. Thank you.

      Don’t you think this ongoing conversation between passionate readers and writers proves C.S. Lewis’ Lewis’ contention “We read to know we are not alone”? We assuage our loneliness by interacting with the writer’s mind, true, but also by creating communities of readers.
      Anjali

  4. I love this post, Anjali. It really points out the importance and the joy that can be found in reading. I was shopping today in our local Home Goods store. In the center of a pile of lounge chairs, end tables, and dressers sat this teenage boy engrossed in reading a book. How he managed to climb over all the furniture to get to the most comfortable stuffed chair of all remains a mystery, but I was thrilled to see him totally absorbed in his novel. The only thing missing was a cup of hot chocolate. I almost went to Starbucks to get it for him!

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