Why I Started Reading

This article was written by T. Lloyd Reilly.

I read a guest post on this site several weeks ago titled “Why I stopped reading.”  The post was well written and germane to the point it was making, but I took umbrage with it.  No, I am not saying anything derogatory about the post or the author.  As I said, the post was well written, and I am glad I read it.  It was the title that fueled my ire.  It has been percolating in me since, and I felt cause to write about it.  Not as a response, but as a testament to the muse it gave me.

I am an avid reader and have been an enthusiastic reader since 1957.  That was the year I figured out what the scribbling’s on the pages of the comic books my cousin Johnny gave me read to occupy me while being babysat, just might be.  I was four years old.  In actuality the journey to enlightenment began a year earlier when I was three.  It took a year for me to discern what was fascinating to me in the pages of this oft maligned genre within the world of literature.

I remember viewing these precursors of such heroes as Spiderman, The Avengers, and the Justice League America as well as a myriad of other characters with total fascination.  Certainly the pictures would seem to be the hook for a three year old, but it was those strange squiggly lines in the round boxes that caught my eye.  Johnny told me they were words, and that I was not old enough to understand them.  I proceeded to prove him wrong.

Looking back, I am not sure how I was able to accomplish a feat such as learning my ABC’s and making the leap, first to words, and ultimately to stringing together these words to achieve the result of meaningful prose without the aid of an adult.  But I did.  My first conquest, in the latter part of 1957, was “Call of the Wild” by Jack London.  What followed is what brought me to the point that I am now, a full time writer.

The next hill I charged up in the literary battle was Edgar Rice Burroughs with his series of stories of an uncivilized man who proved to be the epitome of civilization, or at least what a civilized man should embrace as he made his way through the world.  I particularly enjoyed the description on how Lord Greytstoke would transform into the King of the Jungle by stripping off his clothes along with the vestiges of civilization.  I read every Tarzan book written.

I have maintained my affinity for comic books and pulp fiction ever since.  I have transformed into a writer of fiction and have more than one hero/superhero story line in the works. While I no longer read comic books, I do enjoy some of the attempts Hollywood has made to introduce that universe to us through films. Sadly, there has not been a true rendering of the Tarzan legend (at least not one this Purist has enjoyed).  Perhaps that might be my first foray into the world of scriptwriting. (…perchance to dream!)

The generational advance in my reading has gone much farther than those seemingly simple tomes with loud BAMS, KAPOWS, SLAMS, CRACKS, and UUUNNNHHH’s abounding.  I have ventured into the world of the Bard, delighted in Dumas, Hugo, Twain, Whitman, Kesey, Dante, Milton, Conan Doyle, Dickens, King, Shelley (Mary and Percy), Brautigan, Clancy, Stoker, Poe, Robbins (Tom), Vonnegut, Bombeck, Grisham, Follet, Higgins, Seuss, Llewylen, Faust, Irving, Chaucer, WEB Griffin, Lamour, Wells, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And I am not finished.

What has always enthralled me was the story.  Once I discovered words, and how they might be arranged, I needed to see how that was important in the context of reading.  I went back to the scribe’s of my beginnings into the world if reading.  It was the likes of Siegel, Shuster, Kane, and Finger who caught my attention long enough for it to become an obsession. I discerned that there had to be a point to putting these words in a certain order, and it was tales of the Man of Steel and his quest for “Truth, Justice, and the American way” that brought me clarification  The battles my Kryptonian friend fought meant something.  A wrong had to be righted.  Someone had to be saved.  The villain must be stopped.  The damsel had to be rescued from distress.  Good must triumph.  Might must to be used for right!

Existing in the world of fiction, while most attractive, could not ever provide for all that life would bring.  The realities of life must be seen to and that meant there were a vast numbers of words put together to teach me life on life’s terms.  This required that I become familiar with the scribbling’s and musings of such as Aristotle, Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Pythagoras, Copernicus, Newton, Curie, Edison, Ford, Magellan, Chopra, Krishnamurti, Lao Tzu, Pirsig, Gibran, Dewey, Webster, Locke, Luther, Freud, Jung, Jefferson, Lincoln, Adams, Carver, Douglas, and any number of the writings in the Old Testament.

I discovered a love in these words near equal to those of my youth, and this finding proved to be the ends that justified the means of even learning to read in the first place.  I have been fortunate to be able to sustain myself through the use of the words I keep fealty with.  Prior to achieving the full time dream of being a writer I had the gift of being employed as a school teacher, thereby enabling me to pass on the gift given me in 1957.

And to think…all these wonders came to me quite simply because my cousin wished to keep me amused and out of trouble.


T. Lloyd Reilly is a writer with over twenty five years of writing experience. He has lived what some would consider more than one lifetime and has acquired a wide range of knowledge and life experience which he wishes to share through generous application of the written word. For more information about him go to: http://about.me/tlloydreilly.

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  1. Christina Hamlett

    Well said! I, too, was a voracious reader, largely because the company of fictional characters not only helped fill the void of being an only child but also transported me to astonishing realms that fueled my imagination. In my interviews with fellow writers, the common denominator is this – that they all began by reading every book they could get their hands on and routinely checking out the maximum number of titles from the local library.

  2. Amarie Fox

    I enjoyed this post immensely. I think you really do fit what a good definition of a dedicated reader or book worm is: someone who wishes to escape into another world. I think people who “stop” reading don’t have that same desire to completely be taken by the ‘book world.’

    Again – fantastic post and I look forward to reading more from you soon!

  3. Christina Hamlett

    I feel sorry for the current generation of young people who’d prefer to do their escaping through the channels of video games or TV and movies in which all of the details are spelled out for them by someone else. These representations of “story” only skim the surface rather than inviting viewers to analyze, speculate, and – most of all – see everything through their own imaginations, emotions and frames of reference.

    1. Amarie Fox

      I’d have to agree with you there, Christina. However, there are some movies and television shows which require some thought. These are few and far between, but they do exist. They just aren’t a part of major mainstream culture (and if they are, people miss the point.)

      But, I’d also have to group certain facets of ‘social media’ in with the other methods of “escapism.” When you’re checking what all of your ‘friends’ are up to on Facebook, you’re not really present in reality. You’re somewhere, but it isn’t in the here and now.

      That said, I can tell you that a lot of people my age don’t read. As an English major, I am in many classes with Education Majors who despise reading… and don’t do the assigned readings, but then ask me to explain everything to them. These are the people that will be teaching all the future generations. It is a really grim reality.

      I don’t want to say that you have to have an interest in reading from a young age, but in my experience, I was read to every single night. Maybe, as an only child, I had that luxury. Maybe other kids don’t get that from their parents. I don’t know. But, I do know that even though my parents aren’t big readers, just normal blue collar type people, they gave me that chance to have a love for reading and literature. The rest of the world may look toward entertainment, business, etc. as importance, at the end of the day, I know what changed my life the most was literature. It has taught me more than anyone could know. It has changed how I ‘see’ and ‘experience’ the world. It is the greatest gift of all.

  4. Deanna

    What an inspiring post!
    And you’ve helped me add authors to my to-read list. Thank you!

    1. Willi Morris

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! To be sure, this post will be spread around a lot today via social media. When Brandon told me someone had been inspired to write a post based on mine, I was ecstatic. You are indeed a great writer. I’m so happy that my post encouraged you!

      You’ll be happy to know that thanks to a nifty little app named SuperBetter and the encouragement of this website, I finished A Christmas Carol this month. It was the first book I completed in over a year. I’m currently working on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and a marketing e-book.

      Now, my questions for you: Why in the world did you stop reading comic books?! There are so many amazing ones out there, particularly graphic novels geared towards adults. I did get to read Marvel Zombies, which was insane, but enjoyable, this past year.

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