Why read?

There are a lot of good reasons to read. For fun, increasing your vocabulary, reducing stress, gaining knowledge on particular subjects. But I want to talk about a few reasons that mean something to me personally. 

Let me say first that while I have always been a reader, I have never been voracious. When I was younger, it was never something I would have listed as a main hobby (unless pushed). Once I became a teen, I was usually reading non-fiction, following my interests, and I continued like that for a long time. 

A few years back, still not being able to comprehend why people loved to read made-up stories (I am serious…, I really couldn’t), I pushed myself to read more fiction. And it was eye-opening.

Lately I have found that a reason I enjoy reading fiction is the greater depth the author can give me. The story and characters can develop further, deeper, better somehow than in many TV programs, series, or movies. It took me a long time to ‘get’ this.

I am not bagging films or series at all. I love them. Just finished watching Murder in the Bayou the other day and it was beautifully filmed, thought-provoking, outrageous…a tragic, true story that had to be told, but one that was distressing. I couldn’t turn away. 

Also, though I now ‘get the fuss’ over fiction novels (about time!), I still have to monitor myself to make sure I read fiction – and finish it – when I let myself get out of the habit. Why is that, if they’re so darn great? Well, it’s because without monitoring myself I can be unfocused and lazy and it is so very easy to switch on the TV and let Stan (or Netflix) provide me with a story. Pictures, sounds – all I have to do is sit, stay awake, keep my eyes open. It’s great sometimes, but it isn’t ‘all’ I want to do with my time.

Another thing I like about reading is that it helps me practice focus and in-depth reading and understanding. It applies to non-fiction and fiction whether I am reading a printed book that I can hold in my hand or my e-reader which is a Kindle Paperwhite and has no access to the internet beyond its connection to Amazon or Goodreads. For me, it does NOT apply to blog posts or other pages from the internet, which are shorter and have links that draw you about from this page to the next at great speeds. I also don’t count magazines (though someone else could make a case for some). 

With books, I sit down to read with minimal distraction and with the internet there are many distractions that I need to block out. With books I become engrossed in long text, with the internet I read a snappy page and then move on to the next. 

Once again, I love the internet; I love having information at my fingertips. I love Goodreads. I’m just saying I appreciate the opportunity to read more deeply for longer periods because that is a skill I don’t want to lose. And I felt like I had lost it for a while there.

The third thing I love about reading is reading more widely. Books introduce me to other people’s viewpoints and to new ideas, and that is a positive thing. One of my reading challenges next year will be to read some diverse fiction and non-fiction books. To seek out more books by and/or about people of colour, indigenous, disabled (including physical, mental and neurological), those from religious and other minorities, LGBTQA and more. I have set no rules for myself as yet, but I know this is something I want to do because I feel enriched when I gain understanding about other’s viewpoints and I think it makes me a more knowledgeable and understanding human.

The final, big reason I love reading is that it helps me to see myself in a different light. I read about characters who differ from me or have similarities to me (in character to me or have experienced similar life events), and I come to understand myself a little better.

To summarise:

Greater depth in a story and/or characters

Keeping the ability to focus deeply alive

Better understanding of other people

Deeper understanding of self

What do you most love about reading?

M. N. Cox

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