Friday, November 6, 2009

The W's of Reading: What Is It About Reading?

Just the other day, a student in one of my English classes said, "Why do you like reading so much?" I have to be honest. I had the pat answer, "Because reading is great. It allows your imagination to take you away to any place in the world. It's so relaxing." (He really didn't want too "academic" of an answer about higher order thinking and writing benefits, so I stuck to the pleasure quotients that I knew he was after.) Once I'd answered, I had to ask myself, is that really why? Lot's of things give you the "escape" factor, and other things teach you about others, so what is it about reading that makes me...
  • Pack a book wherever I go. (Do I really need one at the grocery store?)
  • Have books downloaded on my iPhone & Kindle "just in case" I need them.
  • Pile them around me even when I sit to enjoy a television show.
  • Fill half a suitcase with books, for fear I might want to "read this over that," when going on vacation.
  • Carry a book to the gym, so that if I hit a cardio machine, I have my trusty book to help make the time pass more quickly.
  • Buy more than I could ever read. Yes. Even though I have a library card, I still can't pass up buying that one book that just isn't be processed fast enough.
  • Refuse to the see the movie before I read the book.
  • Go to a library sale in Hawaii, filling an apple box to the brim, knowing I live an OCEAN away & will have to mail them all home!
  • Have more bookshelves than I am about to have free walls (and I just moved into a new home).
  • Obsessively check my library account throughout the day, just so I can check on the books I have on hold.
  • Ask everyone I know, "What are you reading?"
  • Keep record of every book I've read since high school.
  • Not be able to drive or even clean my house without at least listening to a book on tape.
  • Feel sad when someone says that they don't read, and immediately start giving them suggestions for books they might actually enjoy.
  • Follow my favorite authors as if they were rock stars, making sure I know when their newest releases are coming out.
  • Enjoy heading to a bookstore, just to read my own book & enjoy the ambiance.
  • Think all day about the next time I'll get to sit down, uninterrupted, to just read.
In some ways, I think I can't actually verbalize what books mean to me, nor what I think they do for any of us. I know I love it, and that I'm definitely not alone in feeling that way! Here's the real crazy part, sometimes I have the fleeting thought, "Wow...I sure wouldn't want to die anytime soon, for fear I won't get all those books read!"

So what would you say about reading? What does it make YOU do?


  1. Excellent post! I happily admit that I also pack a book wherever I go, buy more books than I'll ever have a chance to read, max out my library holds, and feel both sad and mystified whenever someone says they don't read.

    Why does reading have such a hold on me? It's been suggested that a) I'm addicted to reading and/or b) I'm anti-social and use reading to avoid people. Guess I shouldn't have brought that book to the family reunion after all...*L*

    All I know is that I love reading and prefer it to almost any other hobby or pasttime. Maybe I am addicted after all?

  2. Great list!!! I totally agree, and yet I can't completely explain it either.

  3. Well, I definitely take a book everywhere, because you just never know! Once I got a flat tire, and I was more upset that I had forgotten to take a book with me to read while I waited for my dad than I was about my tire. :P

    I have no idea why I read so much; it's just what I do, and what I've always done. Why do football players play footfall, or why do chefs cook? That's kind of how I feel about reading: it's just what I do. Sadly, it won't earn me as much money as playing football....

  4. I am so with you on this post! I think most avid readers will agree, there is just something magical about a good book. NO matter the subject or storylin, they can transport you to another place and time.
    My reading habits mostly came about thanks to a great mom! (read to me BEFORE I was born...there's a feat) I too have (probably) way more books than I can read (at least in a shortened year), but am still constantly on the lookout for more...but hey, that's why I named my blog, Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers! (of course, I'm the main insatiable reader..) =0)
    (Great post!)

  5. I love reading, though I've got a very good quick pace in the summer but a very slow (depressing to me!) one during the school year. I have to read for professional reasons, so reading my favourite books, reading for pleasure is left for the very little spare time.
    I'm sure you know it, but I particularly love this poem about books by Emily Dickinson and would like to end my comment with it:

    There is no Frigate like a Book
    To take us Lands away
    Nor any Coursers like a Page
    Of prancing Poetry –

    This Travel may the poorest take
    Without oppress of Toll –
    How frugal is the Chariot
    That bears the Human soul.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. I loved this post! I think the thing that makes read the most is that it takes me places I normally wouldn't get to visit. The world of books is a great place to escape to when the going gets tough. :)

  7. Excellent! And I agree, it's really hard to verbalize why we love reading so much. I think it's complex, maybe because there is more than one reason.

  8. That first bullet point says it all, I think. I take a book with me in to work everyday, even though I haven't ever read a book at work. I often pack a book in my bag, drive to the store and leave the book in the car, shop, return to the car, put the book back in my bag, and come home. (This is if it's a heavier book, paperbacks I'll take in with me.)

  9. I don't think I could easily express why I read either... I just... do? lol It makes sense to me, so I guess I never really feel I have to explain it to anyone. I have a hard enough time with the question 'how do you read so much' that I have been asked several times this year!

  10. Very cool post! I have to admit, I refuse almost always refuse to see the movie before reading the book. I did that with The Time Traveler's Wife, and now that I've finally read it, the DVD release can't come fast enough!

  11. Alexia--What a great addiction, eh? I love knowing there are a lot of us out there!

    Jenny--It's definitely not easy to pinpoint!

    Heidenkind--LOL. I love your reasoning there about other hobbies & loves people have. Also, ditto on being angry when you don't have a book & could really use one!

    GMR--I love it. I'm glad we're on the same page (no pun intended there) with having way more books than we have time to read!

    Maria Grazia--I love the poem, thanks. A love on language really comes out everywhere we look, eh?

    A Buckeye Girl--Thanks. Too true that it's such a nice escape.

    Kay--I know! After I spouted my pat answer to my student, as you can tell, I haven't been able to stop thinking about all the different reasons why I read! It's more complex than I can even put into words. Thanks for commiserating with me. :)

    Lisa--Isn't it crazy how we have to carry books around "just in case" all the time? I've even been known to pack several!

    Kailana--I's so complicated! :) It's hard putting into words why we read, and why we love it so much.

    Melanie--Thanks! I still have that book on my list of must reads...thanks to the movie. I'm glad you got through it though. I still have to read it before I'll go see the film!

  12. I would pretty much have to say "agreed" to your whole list. It's hard to say what the thing is about reading,I think. It's just... fun! :)

  13. I love this post! Explaining your love of reading can be a hard thing. I often hope I live to be at least 100 if it means getting a chance to read so many great books.

    I love your list. It describes me too.

    My love of reading makes me go to the library at least twice a week to pick up books I've put on hold.It's easier to go just once a week and pick them all up then, but I rather have the books with me than just sitting at the library!

  14. As I was reading point by point I found myself nodding my head faster and faster--yes, I do all of these things too and it doesn't make sense. My biggest concern when I went backpacking in Europe in September was not having enough room to bring a couple of books. I even thought--what can I leave behind so I can squeeze more one? :)

    But like you I can't really explain it either. I think it's partly the desire to continually want to know more about EVERYTHING. In many ways I'm a lifelong student and books help foster that education. Utimately, who knows. Great post Rebecca.

  15. OMG....I was shaking my head yes and laughing after just about every line you posted. I think there are a lot of us like you out there when it comes to books. I went to NYC and paid to have books shipped home....crazy.

  16. I've been bad about reading books over the past few months. I hate to admit that, because I love reading. I love being able to get a feel for how other people (even if those people are fictional) view the world around them. I love reading about ideas and the impact they have on societies. Sadly, my list of books I've read since graduation is very short. Now, when I have free time I watch crime-related dramas on T.V. or talk on the phone. This is due to the fact that my reading I do most frequently is in a textbook. I read "Not About Nightingales" by Tennessee Williams at work yesterday, and realized that it's the first reading I've finished in a month that hasn't been from a textbook. Sigh. The adventures of life as a starving, broke, single, stressed, angry college student. :)

  17. I completely understand!!! I pack a book with me everywhere including family functions where I shut myself into a corner and read (sometimes their better company than my family anyway). I bet I would have a decent stack of all the photos that family members took of me with a book in hand . . . I can't seem to get away from them. My brother and my dad don't read and I try to suggest books to them all the time in hopes that they will actually do it, but the saddest part is is that I'm fighting a losing battle. But I do love everything about books - your list was awesome!!!

  18. Wonderful post! :-D

    It's so great to see that there's so many of us, carrying books everywhere we go and doing all those other things! :-D

    And that's also such a nice thing to know: that reading is not (only) a solitary activity, but can be very social!

  19. Totally loved this post!! I am definitely adding this one to my weekly highlights (though I know that I am way late!)!! And, just for the record . . . I thought I was the only one to worry about not finishing my books before I die!! Glad to know that I am not alone!!! :)