Why read? It’s a question I can never really answer because it changes daily. I read for pleasure, for information, to escape reality and pretend I am someone else. I read to kill time, hide myself behind an invisible cover, and tell the rest of the world to leave me alone. I read to develop my own writing and comprehension skills and to challenge myself to write equally great works of fiction and poetry. I read to laugh, cry, and at times feel rage and empathy. Why do I read? Like I said, it’s hard to define a singular, driving reason.
Regardless of why, the reality is I do read. I can’t help but read. Some may even call it a compulsion, a habit or an addiction. The delights and fancies I experience while reading are rarely matched. The ability to fall completely head over heels, Alice in Wonderland style, into a storyline and lose myself entirely has always been one of my favorite pastimes. Even as a kid. If I wasn’t outside in the softball fields or on some crazy kid excursion, you could find me plopped down on the living room floor, basking in sunlight with a book dutifully placed five inches from my face. It’s no wonder I started needing glasses at age twelve.
I was never a big sci-fi or fantasy fan. Practically the only fantasy books I can ever recall reading were the classics – Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Chronicles of Narnia. For the longest time I reread the Avalon series. But what girl at some point in her life doesn’t yearn to be powerful, beautiful, and strong like the ladies of Avalon? I developed a strong sense of self through reading. In each character I saw a bit of myself. I dared to be adventurous and fearless, feminine and coy, intelligent, witty, and even sometimes shy.
I have always gravitated towards the classics and early to mid-1900s literature. The Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jack London, J.D. Salinger, Margaret Mitchell, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, and Ayn Rand were my teachers, my friends. When it comes to a good story, we are all hooked. You read it once, maybe even a bit too fast, because you can’t wait to get to the end. Sometimes you read it a second time and then a third and then a fourth – each time discovering something new, something surprising. You’re guaranteed a gift every time. Sometimes the character you loved at first meet and greet you loath in the end. And as you grow older and experience more of the world, your perspective on certain storylines evolves and you may find yourself blushing at your youthful naiveté when it comes to sex, race, politics, and class.
So why do I read, you ask? I read for me. And that’s the best reason of all.