Hollywood loves readers: The (sometimes) mutually beneficial relationship between books & movies

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

Books and movies need not compete for our attention and affection. They are two very different mediums, and they have, as explained in an earlier post on this site by Williesha Morris, different needs and goals and use different tools to do the same thing—share a story with the world. In fact, although many readers and writers may loathe to admit it, movies and the books that inspire them enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship in which one feeds off and grows from the other. Less than convinced? Let me explain.

Good and Bad Movie Versions of Books Create New Readers

When it comes to readers, Hollywood often gets a bad rap. But why? Because even with a blockbuster budget a la Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, directors, producers, makeup artists and actors galore cannot measure up to many book-lovers’ imaginations. Too often, the characters, the setting, the plot, are not how we experienced them in the middle of the night, huddled under the covers with a flashlight, no special effects required.

But that’s okay.  What matters most is a writer’s story reaching more people. Because when a movie waters down or modifies a tale drastically, readers complain to their friends and family about it. Moviegoers who enjoyed the film, but have heard more times than they can count about how the books are superior, or the screenplay was so different sometimes become curious enough to crack open the book and the writer gains a new reader.

And on those rare occasions when the movie version is sublime, perfect, and adored by all the book fans, they drag their non-reader friends to the premiere, and goad them into buying or borrowing the book, and again, the writer gets new readers. For me, one instance of this is The Perks of Being a Wallflower–amazing execution, beautiful in print and on the big screen—and don’t get me started on the soundtrack—the book talks about music a lot, and wow.

Movie Versions of Books Alert Readers

Films are good press for books. It may seem shameful to readers and writers, but new movies receive far more attention and word of mouth than most freshly published tomes. Savvy readers know that many movies are based on books, so if a movie being advertised looks intriguing, with a little research they can stumble into something even more intriguing to read.

Hollywood’s in-your-face advertising put books like The Silver Linings Playbook, The Cloud Atlas and The Life of Pi on my reading list, and I’ve not even seen the last two movies. The striking print and television ads piqued my interest, and now I plan to read the books and watch the movies.

In fact, a lot of books I’ve really enjoyed have come to my attention when the blockbusters based on them were produced and promoted. Slick ads produced for box office hits nudged me into reading the Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures, and the Immortal Instruments, just to name a few recent offenders—all fun, entertaining reads, well-worth a cozy afternoon spent turning pages and sipping coffee. The movies aren’t too bad, either, once you let go of the idea that they must exactly resemble the book world you and the author created in your mind.

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Chris Ciolli is a Barcelona-based writer and translator. She’s an unabashed book worm and a bit of a coffee addict. She’s accepting new writing and translation clients. Look her up at ChrisCiolli.com.

Three Things Game of Thrones Can Teach Non-Fiction Writers

game of thrones reading writing

This is an essay by Rhonda Kronyk.

The list of categories we can choose reading material from is endless. Yet, as busy people, we often choose to read in the genre we write in and forget that all writers can learn from reading outside their genre.

I admit that I’ve been guilty of letting my non-fiction reading slide this year as I work on my freelance writing and editing business. I miss reading novels, but never seem to make the time to fit them into my schedule.

That is until my son introduced me to the Game of Thrones television series. I rarely read fantasy fiction, and I never watch it on TV. But I am enthralled by Game of Thrones. So much so that I bought all of the novels.

It didn’t take me long to realize that writers can adapt George RR Martin’s techniques for non-fiction writing.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Understand your characters.

All non-fiction writing has a human at its core. Whether you’re writing a technical manual, a scientific treatise, a book of history, or a self-help article, everything is written by and for humans. The sooner you understand that, the better your writing will be.

However, for some genres this is even more important. Biographies, case studies, and memoir come immediately to mind.

Martin’s characters reflect humanity. They are incredibly complex, almost always contradictory, and are motivated by a range of rationales.

The people you discuss in your writing are the same. That means you need to hone your interview skills in order to access this complexity.

What aren’t they saying? How do past actions contradict or support their current words? What are their motivations?

I’m not suggesting that you dig up dirt on the people you write about. But you need to remember that, like Martin’s characters, people are rarely easy. That means that you need to take the time to try to understand them. Martin was once asked how he writes such good female characters. His response is classic: “I’ve always considered women to be people.”

What does this mean for you? No matter how difficult the interview or your personal feelings about a subject, you are dealing with people. None of us are easy, so take that into account.

2. Setting matters.

Have you ever read a feature article about a place and walked away disappointed? When Martin writes about his kingdom, readers can form a mental picture of dark castles, rich, walled cities and a wall of ice separating the North from the Seven Kingdoms.

You need to learn to convey this same detail in your non-fiction writing. Don’t leave your reader unable to form a mental image of the nature reserve, museum, or cultural event you are writing about.

That means it isn’t enough to say the lake water is blue. Rather, say “the clouds cause the water to change from blue green to steel grey, while the wind creates patterns of ripples across the water.” Details help your reader to see what you see.

Can you imagine the ice wall in the northern kingdom described as a barrier to separate the wild lands from the Seven Kingdoms? That doesn’t provide much of a mental picture, does it? But Martin’s ice-wall is 700 feet tall, 300 miles long, and infused with magic. It has abandoned forts built along its length and dominates the surrounding geography. It is forbidding and frightening and necessary.

When you build this level of detail into your descriptions, you provide your reader with a richer experience and draw them deeper into your writing.

3. The plot has to make sense.

It doesn’t matter if your story starts at the middle or the end. By the time the reader finishes the whole article, they have to understand the chain of events.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But think about the plot turns that Game of Throne takes. I can generally guess the ending of a show before the halfway point. Yet, I am constantly amazed by the plot twists that evolve. Not only that, but the twists are realistic because they reflect the characters and setting that Martin has worked into his story.

But you aren’t writing fiction, so none of this matters right? Wrong. Real life takes just as many twists and turns as a novel. It’s just as full of unintended consequences. As a writer, you need to be able to follow the various threads, sort them into a semblance of order and cut the ones that will clutter and confuse the story.

You always need to keep the facts straight so your reader can get an understanding of the events that you are writing about – no matter how complicated they are.

I’m thrilled that I was introduced to the rich tapestry that is a George RR Martin novel. It has been an excellent reminder to rekindle my love of fiction.

So expand your reading, go back to the wonderful world of well-written novels and incorporate the techniques of good fiction writing into non-fiction writing.

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Rhonda Kronyk is the editor and co-author of Releasing the Words: Writers on Writing, an e-book helping writers take control of writer’s block. As a die-hard word-nerd, she explores everything word related including writing, editing, and reading.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Douglas Brown.

Sounding It Out

reading aloud music in reading

This is an essay by John Kilhefner.

It’s unnatural to lose the beat when we routinely read to ourselves or dutifully hammer words onto the page. Discovering the rhythm in the sound of words is akin to uncovering a new language — a language you perhaps once knew, but forgot.

Like any other studious child, I read. I read the books I needed to read. Few of them, if any, interested me. Einstein once said intelligence is fostered in part from the fairy tales we consume well before school age. Toddlers find words exotic — being aloof to deeper meanings, their intrigue owes to the aesthetic; their continued intrigue to the reward of word recognition by sound or visual representation. In school, well-behaved children read. The older I got, the less lustrous the words appeared. They were just words.

Still, I read. Not out of interest in reading, but eagerness to please. I was terrified of not being liked. Of letting my parents down, of academic ignominy at the desks of my teachers. I read, as studiously as I could, to impress.

Undoubtedly, it was the reading which fostered my natural talent for writing. Well, that and my dad’s uncanny ability to tell me a new story from his life every night. But I had no interest in writing, unless it was assigned. Or unless it was on my dad’s typewriter. The sound of the keys spelunking into the metal framework entertained me.

By adolescence, I replaced childlike eagerness with childlike rebellion. The latter satisfied me. And by high school, my head spent more time on desks than in books. Daydreaming, my thoughts roamed free. My senses melded with words which became sounds which became visuals, all simultaneously. Lucid synesthesia. Waking up meant the words were just words again.

Like any other studious child, I involved myself in extracurricular activities. I learned to read music and play the trumpet. I chose band, because my older brother was in it. I chose the trumpet because it was his instrument, and I looked up to him. The magic I would come to know in music was absent from my music classes. The curriculum dulled its hypnotic effects, turning it into another chore.

Then, in the ninth grade, a friend of mine brought in an Eminem CD and played it over the band room speakers. The song elicited a reaction in the band director, one I’d never seen before — his face was beet red when he whipped the CD out of the player and chastised us. As juvenile and explicit for the sake of explicitness as it was, I saw a certain power in words. So I listened.

When we think of rhythm, our minds don’t go immediately to the written word, but to expressive forms like music or dance. Our minds and bodies are naturally hardwired for it. If you squint, you can find rhythm in anything — from our body’s basic biological cadences to the rise and fall of the seasons due to the motion of the planet. It manifests itself in human creations, such as sports, and, of course, in song. When it comes to the latter, the reverberation of two carefully chosen words is literally music to the ears.

An explosion of ecstasy takes place when we hear a pleasing rhythmical phrase or lyric. This is immediately gratifying in music, while it takes a carefully seasoned ear to unlock the rhythms inherent in prose.

When writing, reading our finished work aloud allows us to experience the full breadth of what we just wrote. If it doesn’t flow, reading it aloud is often the lens that exposes flaws. Words, when on a page, only reveal half of themselves. Hearing the sound words make creates a multi-sensory experience fostering comprehension.

Like any other rebellious child, I listened to music my parents hated. I listened, at first, for acceptance. The more I listened, however, the more every word and every note I read coalesced. Exotic. Through music, I discovered joy in the sounds of words. Something I once knew, but forgot.

By the time I was out of high school, I read more than I ever read and played more music than I ever played in all my years as a student. I even started nurturing whatever structure I cultivated as a writer prior to academic-induced stasis. And by the time I took English literature in college, you would be hard pressed to find me not reading.

Reading and writing unveils its truth when both the writer and the reader think within the syncopations of jazz musicians or the choreographed beauty of ballet dancers. Prose consists of the interplay of carefully chosen and arranged words to form a complete composition.

Much like the tone of an instrument, the writer’s tone, too, influences the rhythm of words, sentences and paragraphs. The reader’s task is to infer tonal shifts, using the proper inflection to yield the full impact of prose.

While working at TIME, Hunter S. Thompson re-typed the entirety of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” He did this to understand Fitzgerald’s prose style and feel how writing a novel was like. Thompson was well aware of the rhythms of prose, subtle as they may be. To write well, one must find the natural sound within literature.

My flirtation with sound hasn’t just taken me down a path, it’s created a lifestyle. Today, I’m learning Japanese and, you guessed it, music is the primary motivator. I discovered Japanese hip hop, a marvel of globalization on its own, and am once again transfixed by the power of words. Or, in this case, the power that culture has on words. The English language is more suited to rhymes than Japanese, meaning the evolution of Japanese rap, or J-Rap, required a re-thinking of the structures of the language. I’m transcribing the songs I like into Romaji, and, because I only currently know about 200 words, learning the meaning of each word as I go. Eventually, I’ll cultivate enough of an understanding to be able to read an entire new culture. Now that sounds interesting.

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Johnny Kilhefner is a freelance writer specializing in the intersection of technology and culture. His work appears in Five out of Ten magazine, Unwinnable, PopMatters, Writer’s Weekly, Bridged Design, and much more. When not writing, he raises two young daughters while indulging his Sisyphean quest to brew the finest cup of tea. You can find him on Twitter.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Rima Xaros

If You Don’t Like Reading, You’re Doing It Wrong

don't like to read

This is an essay by Taylor Church.

I was not a bibliophile from the beginning. My love of books did not come until late in my adolescence. I never loathed literature, but reading books I found boring and irrelevant in school did not nurture a healthy longing to read.

I mostly stuck to the basics: Garfield books, books about NBA players with copious amounts of pictures, and the occasional novel about Wayside Schools or perhaps a fictional baseball player trying to make it the big leagues.

As my juvenility slowly progressed into my pubescent years, I began to form a somewhat broader interest in reading. But it only went further into the subject of sports. All I read was books about various athletes and maybe the occasional biography on a musician. The only real progress was that at age 14 or 15 I was reading decent-sized books with little or no pictures inside (often just a few choice photos in the middle of the book). One instance altered my paradigm forever.

I was 16 and in California on vacation with my family. We were lounging one day for hours at Huntington Beach. My parents were engrossed in huge paperbacks per usual. I was laying in the sand reading a book about post-retirement Michael Jordan. My dad took an inspired break from his guilty pleasure and accosted me. He said quite sardonically, “Why don’t you read a grown up book for once?”

I laughed and shrugged. I had no clever or reasonable retort. He then tossed me a paperback of some 500-plus pages and said, “Start reading this, if after the first two chapters you are bored or don’t like it I will leave you alone, but I think you will enjoy it.” I reluctantly agreed, thinking I was going to prove him to be the fool.

Well I was wrong. John Grisham had captured me. The book was The Runaway Jury, and I was hooked. Never before had I realized how enjoyable reading could be. I mostly just liked learning trivialities about my childhood heroes. So I got a late start, but almost 10 years later I have read almost 500 books since that fateful day on the shore.

I am afraid too many people are stuck in the same place I was 9 years ago. They do not hold reading with disdain or harsh feelings. They simply do not know how to love reading. They are stuck with the notion that reading is tolerable and enjoyable if the subject is just right.

But one must love reading! One must be enthralled with learning, exploring, finding, and searching for new ideas. One must learn from the past and study to conquer the future.

I have met too many people that claim “I like reading. I just do not have the time.” I assure them that the busiest people in the world find time to glean knowledge from the priceless pages of timeless books. Louis L’Amour in his book entitled Education of a Wandering Man said that within a year he could read upwards of 25 books simply in the time he spent waiting for things.

Ipso facto, we all have time to read. We simply must make the time. For Mr. L’Amour also said: “Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.” What terrific incentive we have to not waste away our time. Thomas A. Kempis so wisely said: “Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating or endeavoring something for the public good.”

My personal secret for making the leap from liking reading to loving it, to having an obsessive passion with it is simple. I dominate the books I read. No matter the book, if I come across a word I do not know, I do not read another page until I have looked up said word and written the definition in the margin.

Even if I have a pretty good idea what the word means from context, I look it up to homologate my suspicions. Why be unsure if we can be certain?

In reading works of history, I omnivorously look up subject matter, whether it concerns names, geography or organizations. Why just learn about something if you can become expert in it? Why are we so determined to know much, but be expert of nothing?

My books are precious to me. They are filled with food stains and scratchy annotations. They have underlined salient phraseology, and highlighted pieces of poetry. But I never vacillate with the idea of lending my book to another. The point of a book is that it is timeless.

As long as one copy is extant, its inspiration and influence can know no bounds. So why limit a book’s influence by keeping it on a dusty shelf or in a battered book bag? After all, knowledge begets knowledge. So if you are having trouble finding that passion for literature, do not fret. You needn’t run out and procure the works of Tolstoy or Edward Gibbons.

Read something small that sounds interesting. Knowledge begets knowledge. Read Wikipedia, read magazines, read blogs, read comics. But do not ever read just to read. Read to learn, read to edify yourself, read to find answers, read to escape. Let your mind be tangential.

If you just finished a book you quite enjoyed about two young lovers in South Carolina, read up on South Carolina on Wikipedia. Maybe you will find that James Brown is from there, or that Ray Allen grew up there. Or maybe you will come to remember what you heard once in an 8th grade social studies class – that the Civil War started in Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Let your curiosities dictate what you learn. And lastly, do not limit yourself to one book at a time.

Perhaps you think it does not make sense to read more than one book at a time. But should you not have a book ready at hand for your every capricious mood? Sometimes you just want to escape, get away from it all and delve into a guilty pleasure type book.

Sometimes you just want facts, so you read the Sports Almanac, or Guiness Book of World Records. Sometimes you need healing, so you read a religious piece to enhance your spirituality. Sometimes you just get recommended a book, and absolutely have to start it immediately because it looks so interesting.

I am always reading between 5-10 books at a time. And it is perfect for me. But find what is perfect for you. My advice would be however, to start a book any time you feel inclined to do so.

I will finish with a few words of sagacity by Henry David Thoreau: “A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”

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Taylor Church is from Utah, enjoys learning languages, is working on two non-fiction books and hopes to teach high school history.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Evan Bench

Required Holiday Reading: A Christmas Carol

dickens christmas carol scrooge

This essay was written by Amarie Fox.

Upon hearing the news that my father would be working most of the day on Thanksgiving, I instinctively, walked over to my bookshelf and pulled Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” down from the shelf. I suppose I was trying to remind myself what this time of year is truly about.

Although I am thankful that my father has work again, especially after losing his job earlier this year, it saddens me that at his age, the only type of job he was able to get was in sales. Where especially during these upcoming weeks, people will flood the store, shoving and screaming, looking for things, simple, silly objects, that they just need to buy.

Each year, it begins earlier, the sale advertisements in anticipation for Black Friday, so much so that they have managed to successfully intrude upon yet another important, overlooked holiday. Are we as a culture structuring our lives around greed and gratification? Have we forgotten tradition, or what is important and meaningful? Sometimes I think I know the answer, I just don’t want to say it aloud.

Dickens, I feel, is an expert on humanity, which is why he is still relevant today. During the Victorian era, he was considered a social novelist, writing ‘epics of everyday life.’ The purpose of narrative literature, for him, was to raise society’s consciousness, namely about itself. Characters in his novels are metaphorical representations, standing in for certain values, philosophies, or attitudes.

However, this is not to say the content is overwhelmingly or unnecessarily depressing or gloomy. Dickens, actually, was a master at balancing harsh realities of this world, while also seeking out and elevating the good amidst the bleakness.

A Voice of Many

Many consider “A Christmas Carol” melodramatic and sentimental. In some ways, I can understand this, but at the same time, I have to say, it represents so much more. Obviously, when approaching it historically, the short novel is a major denunciation of the Industrial period and laissez-faire capitalism, which values money and profit over the well-being of the individual. The Cractchit family – with their tenderness for one another, their care of Tiny Tim, their happiness over a frugal Christmas meal – embody a side of this system. And despite circumstances and their set position in society, not to mention the atrocious and popular attitudes of the mercantile class, they are not without love and goodness. In fact, they exude these qualities.

After the initial release and immediate wild success of it, many struggling families wrote to Dickens to tell him, ‘how the Carol had come to be read aloud there, and was to be kept upon a little shelf by itself, and was to do them no end of good.’ One must consider something: that although the Cratchit family represented quite a large portion of the poor population, Dickens was one of the only ones who actually gave them a voice.

Want and Ignorance

One of my favorite moments is when the Ghost of Christmas Present introduces the two children clinging to his robes: appropriately named Want and Ignorance. Both represent common traits that exist in society during times of financial inequality between the rich and poor. We see this numerous times throughout the text, but perhaps most strongly in the characters of Scrooge and Marley.

When two men arrive, in search of charity contributions, Scrooge promptly dismisses them. He points out that they should either be put in jail or put to work or die in order to decrease the ‘surplus population.’ Being regarded as a ‘surplus’ came from Reverend Thomas Malthus’s 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population. At its publication, it sparked a widespread fear of over-population in England. Again, Scrooge is the vehicle, here. His opinion mirrors many other people’s opinions at the time. Like them, he is unkind, and worse, ignorant and uninformed about the strife, struggles, and experiences of the poor.

Some time later, when the ghost of his friend and business partner Marley visits, Scrooge remarks on his chains, a symbol that Jacob is a prisoner of his bad deeds. Because he never left the courting house, the money-changing home, he never recognized the hardships of others. His craving for money fueled him, but as he learns, albeit too late, “mankind was [his] business.” Charity and mercy and benevolence were traits he should have practiced while living, not the ‘every man for himself’ mentality.

After their conversation, Scrooge looks through his window and notices many miserable looking ghosts in similar shackles, some that he even recognizes. They, like Marley and like much of society, turned a blind eye to the injustice, as well. And as much as they’d like to interfere for the good, to maybe lend a hand, they cannot. They are forever separated from the living.

True Change?

One question, or maybe a doubt, I am left with at the end of this novel is regarding the nature of Scrooge’s transformation. When we examine his ‘journey’ closely, we see that it only becomes possible when he uncovers his eyes and confronts his painful past and background. Re-experiencing those repressed memories, he comes to pity himself first. With that new acknowledgement, that remembrance, he is then able to care for others.

The reason we are sympathetic, the reason we move past self-centeredness as children, is not only that we have experienced loss, loneliness, defeat, or dread, but because we also remember it when faced with someone else’s sufferings. Basically, we apply our own past emotions when attempting to understand others. Without that, we deny any chance of deeper connection, camaraderie or love.

I find consolation, though, in the simple possibility of change. The fact that goodness is something you can always strive for, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. It is never too late. But, it is a choice. Behaving badly is not difficult. Usually it is appealing, desirable, selfish, but provides that instant gratification.

What I will take away from “A Christmas Carol” this year is the reminder that one can never prove their goodness without the challenge to make a decision. And that is just what Scrooge does. He makes an important final choice, one that we should remember this December, but also year round: Love for humanity over money, material, and greed.

Will you be reading (or re-reading) A Christmas Carol this season? If so, why or why not? Do you have any holiday reading rituals? Favorite holiday related books?

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Amarie Fox is a writer and artist. She graduated with a BA in English Literature and recently finished her novella. She plans of making an origami swan out of her diploma. Her recent fiction work has been published by Little Fiction, NIB, and Literary Orphans. Find more information at amariefoxart.wordpress.com and amariefox.tumblr.com.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Ciara McDonnell

Why Reading Should Be a Shared Activity

why you should read together

This essay was written by Julie Bates.

Why Share Reading?

Reading is a one person activity – right? Well, that depends.

Sometimes reading can be a wonderful escape from the real world and the tensions that send you seeking a universe far, far away. Other times nothing enriches the experience of a good read than sharing it with another.  Good shared reads allow you to share the wonder of exploring alien worlds, compare notes on exotic recipes or decide if the book the media suddenly adores is worth picking up or is exponentially overrated.

It Builds Intimacy

My husband and I read each other’s books. He’s learned to appreciate my eclectic taste in fiction and I appreciate his more scholarly interests.  We’ve had some wonderful discussions surrounding the plot of whatever book he has finished after me. Confession here – I read fast, and I tend to stay up late for a good story. He appreciates the need for eight or more hours of snoozing.

We’ve tried exotic foods read about in books and looked up places on the internet. I remember us looking at Turkey’s Hagia Sophia museum online after reading a richly textured description of it in Anne Perry’s The Sheen on the Silk.

You can partially quote a really good line and receive a grin of acknowledgement from your significant other while leaving others baffled. Jokes, inside information, favorite characters become fodder for your moments together.

Good reads promote good dialogue. We’ve discussed the plausibility of whodunnits, physics (which he understood and I didn’t and needed some explanations) and whether or not we would try recipe X. Confession here – I read the cookbooks. He agrees to be a guinea pig as long as I don’t get too weird. He now agrees that kale can be made edible.

Your Children Benefit

Everyone wants their kid to be smart right? Everyone wants that intimate connection that comes from shared moments. Reading builds that seamlessly. From the moment my son was born, my husband and I read to him. We read Dr. Seuss, We read Magic Tree House and the entire Little House on the Prairie Series.

It was the lifesaving component of the nighttime ritual. You know, the one where you say it’s bedtime and your kid replies in that whiny, tired voice, “I’m not sleepy,”  initiating bedtime guerrilla warfare.

Plunking a tired, cranky kid in bed doesn’t work. I’ve tried it, got the tee shirt and been back in his room 3 million times because, “I can’t sleep, I need water, it’s dark and I hear a weird noise.”   What saved my sanity, such as it existed, were books.   Bedtime was when we would pick a book, he would lie in bed and I or my husband would read, usually a chapter or less if he dropped off.

I read to my child until he took the book (Despereaux) out of my hands and said “I want to read it for myself!”  He went on to read all the Harry Potter books before fifth grade only to be bummed to discover he could not get AR (Advanced Reader) points, because all but the first volume are considered middle school books.  I discovered we could talk about The Lord of the Rings as well as Hatchet.

Even now that he is a teen, we talk books. We don’t always have the same taste. I’m not into Dr. Who, and he doesn’t really enjoy some of the history I read, but we still have wonderful, literate discussions born out of all the books we read together.

Shared reading experience opens your mind

I belong to a reading group. A lot of what is read is philosophy. which is not my area of expertise. Some of these individuals started talking about what these theories meant, and my mind was blown. What seemed simple on the printed page had interpretations that had never occurred to me.

Listening to my friends discuss subjects ranging from physics to religion made me contemplate deeper meanings that I normally wouldn’t have.  They made me think rather than blindly accept what was on the page. While I will never be a debater, I have benefited from being exposed to many points of view. Who doesn’t want to expand their mind?

Good books increase friendships

I’ve had lovely discussions about books with people I’ve never met before. One of us would see the other with a book and comment about it and conversation would ensue.

Sometimes I’ve had someone say, “If you like this author, try so-and-so.”  Scribbling down the name, I’ve gone to my local library and discovered a brand new read, which I could then share with someone else.

Good books are contagious.

So why share what you’re reading?

If all the reasons I’ve already stated are not enough, think about what it does for you.  You have something to share – your opinion. Some reads inspire passion, others curiosity, others are so excruciatingly bad, we never finish, but they all affect us in some way.

Why not share that feeling? Not everyone will want to listen, but someone will. That could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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Julie Bates is a writer and former teacher living in North Carolina. She likes to read anything that is well written, entertaining or thought provoking.

For further reading on making reading a shared activity please consider:  Reading and Writing in Relationships: How Partners Encourage Learning and Enjoyment ; How Reading Can Improve Your Love Life.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Michael Bentley.

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.