Recently one of my very favorite authors (see below) asked this question and I thought to myself ‘why do I read?’ Why do any of us read? And why do people who claim they hate reading, hate it?
As far as the love of reading, I can only answer the question for myself.
I read to escape, to be transported and to learn.
Reading did not come early to me, I have not had my nose in a book since three years-old or some crazy age. In fact my first experience with the elixir, the euphoria, the addiction that only a true book lover experiences from a story well told was from Carolyn Keene and Nancy Drew.
Christmas 1973 I received the first five in that long running series: The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, The Bungalow Mystery, Mystery at Lilac Inn and The Secret at Shadow Ranch.
I had to have more. I had been infected.
Nancy Drew was followed by a great novel about a young boy who stowed away on a ship to America in the 1700’s, the next biggy was one about a boy who went back in time and experienced the Children’s Crusade in person before he could get back home.
Since then I have read too many to remember, I have even been known to take a book on girl’s weekend and been chided for it.
None of this explains why I like to read particularly. All I can say is that I love the feeling, when a story is so good that I am there absolutely right there experiencing life alongside the characters, laughing, crying and all that other stuff.
As a teen and young adult I read a lot of the famous works and alternative fiction, partly because I had to and partly because I wanted to know what my friends were talking about. My first love however has remained mysteries. Except those cat ones, I hate those. Or bed and breakfast ones, or any with titles too cute to say out loud.
The next discovery was Rex Stout, before you laugh go and read them. For stories written beginning in 1934 all the way to 1985 his work is remarkably pertinent. What’s not to love about Archie Goodwin? Honestly, I’ve re-read them all at least 5 times. A go-to comfort read for me.
Non-fiction is not a favorite although I have several travelogues amongst my favs (Holy Cow by Sarah McDonald and McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy).
A 6th grade french project about castles and their history was my introduction to the idea of travelling overseas. I was 18 when I made my first escape, blame that book with its glossy photos.
Skip forward several deca–er, years and I ‘discovered’ Susanne Brockman. Ok, she had been publishing for several years by the time I got to her.
Here is a funny thing. I am also a huge romance fan. As an adult I had forgotten this, forgotten how many Harlequin Romances I had read as a teen and how much I enjoyed them. My friend Allison and I would trade each other for ones we hadn’t read. Many summer days were spent reading these silly books. I was sad when Woolworth’s closed and I couldn’t go spend my entire allowance there anymore, that’s probably when I stopped reading them.
Back to Suzanne Brockman. She writes suspense-romance but over the years she has incorporated several difficult subjects; alcoholism and homosexuality. In fact one of my favorite characters of hers (who we as readers know is gay) falls in love with a man who is alcoholic but in the closet. I love Jules and Robin.
Jules and Robin led me to my current favorite authors; Josh Lanyon and Harper Fox. Both of whom write within the subgenre of m/m romance with a little suspense thrown in, or not, sometimes its just about the relationship. Whatever. These are two gifted writers that I highly recommend; both have changed the way I view relationships (regardless of the genders involved), if you’re not comfortable with reading about m/m relationships it’s your loss.
Where am I going with this? And what the heck does it have to do with why we read or not? Each of these books and authors I have mentioned take me out of myself for just a little while. To a place or time I never imagined. Susanne Brockman? All I can say is; I don’t even know her and she changed my life–even if it was just a nudge. Crazy.
I can only imagine that people who don’t like to read experience the world in a different (not worse) way than I do. Perhaps what reading does for me others get from a walk through a museum or lying on the grass and looking at clouds? I just don’t know. I used to think it was the glue used for binding but that doesn’t explain the *many* books loaded onto my Kindle although I do kind of wish it came with a ‘book smell’ feature.
Reading is a conversation that I can have again and again when I want to.
It’s an escape and it’s a problem because I am running out of shelf space.
Why do you read? How has it influenced your life?