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Why do we read?


For most of us this question is one easily answered, starting with because we enjoy it and because we want to. Then the answer broadens to encompass because it keeps my mind active, I learn new things, new words, new ways of saying things, to be entertained, to escape (this is one of mine main reasons for reading – second only to because I love to read)…

Why do we read what we read? Fundamentally, the answer is because its want interests us or excites us. I have touched on the next point before, should we read the same things we always read?

As a librarian (as well as I writer) I am somewhat baffled by people reading the same things over and over, the same author or the same genre. Perhaps I am baffled because I find it difficult – or tedious may be another word – to read extremely similar things over and over again, whatever that may be.

For me, I can only read so much fiction before my mind wants something different and I have to pick up non-fiction again and vice versa. Even with fiction I try to change what I read to get a broader scope, but that’s the writer in me, as well as the librarian (so I can recommend different genres to different people) and also the historian in me – which is quite possibly why I love reading non-fiction almost as much as I love fiction. Should we confine ourselves to just one, two or even three types of literature? Or should we, again I harked on about this before in a separate blog, stretch ourselves to read not only more often but more widely. So much can be garnered from reading a wider variety, as can be from just reading generally. But reading is better than not reading at all.

On CVs (or resumes) people tend to include a small section entitled ‘additional interests’ or similar, and it is in this section most people put ‘I like to read’. If I was an employer I’d be like ‘so what?’ It may be that you do like to read, but simply stating ‘I like to read’ isn’t really interesting. So you may want to define what you like to read perhaps. So according to CVs most people like to read, again this goes back to my first point of why? I clearly know why but I just wonder if the primary reason – apart from the obvious enjoyment of reading – is different or the same for people.

This also links into the second point of what we read. There are so many genres out there which I have so far confined to fiction and non-fiction, but even these terms don’t do the areas justice, all you have to do is go to your local library or bookstore and browse around the numerous sections they have. A problem occurs for me, as it does with many readers I know, not all of them necessarily writers, there are too many books to read – what do I read next. I often hear – and I’ve said it many times before, ‘I’ve got a whole pile of books at home waiting to be read’. I usually utter this clutching another – perhaps smaller pile of books ready to be taken home to be added to the growing book pile waiting to be read. Books that generally cover many different genres.

Now one couldn’t read everything or indeed shouldn’t read just anything just to try your hand at reading every genre, we all have our own personal interests. I don’t really follow sport so I wouldn’t pick up a sport biography, nor am I really interested in auto-biographies especially of ‘celebrities’, but I am interested in reading some biographies about people who would interest me – and indeed I have of course – including historical figures, politicians, and writers to name but a few. But now I’m going off at a tangent…

I am perhaps more baffled by those who don’t read. When I was surfing the net (probably an old expression now in the ever changing development of the English language), looking for other examples for my 30 things before 30 blog, quite a few of them had as a point ‘to read a book’ citing that they hadn’t finished a book in years. I know not everyone has the time to read, but I just don’t really understand why people don’t read. It relaxes you, it widens your vocabulary and so on… You don’t even have to read often or anything complex – just something.

Is it just me, blinded by my career as a librarian, as writer, and as an ‘avid’ reader, that doesn’t understand?

Why do you read? What do you read? And why do you think some people don’t?


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