Why Read: An Answer Painted in a Broad Stroke

This is an essay written by Brandon Monk.

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

I have been thinking about the answer to the question, “Why Read,” for about two years. The question first became my focus as I reflected on why I had not read the first years out of formal education.

At the time, I think I was desperate for answers and lonely. I read for answers to the big questions like how to exist and even why exist.

As I started to read again I tried to think about why it was that I was reading what I was reading. Over time, I think I have boiled it down to three reasons.

We read for pleasure, for education, or for perspective. There is overlap. If you are reading for pleasure, education, and perspective you are reading at the highest level. This is the reader’s highest achievement.

For Pleasure

By this I mean read what you like.

Read for entertainment without worrying about any secondary gain.

The only focus you are aware of is your own amusement, diversion, or enjoyment.

For Education

By this I mean read to learn.

Read for knowledge. Develop your power of reason or judgment.

Read in preparation for life. Test your knowledge by making mature decisions.

For Perspective

By this I mean read to understand the state of one’s ideas.

Read to adjust the way you look at the world.

Read to understand how two people, places, things, or ideas interact.

Does it matter why we read?

In order to read, to have incentive to pick up a book, you have to start with the reasons why.

As a student I used to hate the teachers that used to explain things by saying, “Because I said so.” No response annoyed me more.

If I ever taught, I vowed, I would always explain why something was the case.

I realize we aren’t in class and I realize I’m not your teacher, but I wanted to put forward the reasons to read in a broad stroke. I will come back to these reasons in more detail in the future.

In the mean time, I want you to consider for yourself, why you read. Share your reason with me in the comments. If I’m missing something, tell me. I want to get this right and would love to hear what you think.

Photo: Some rights reserved by jenny downing.