What Makes a Reader Read?

Painting of Woman ReadingReading is something that I have always done. I remember hiding in corners as a child with a pile of books beside me and a couple of juice packs so that I could read in peace and ignore my grandmother’s constant suggestion that I go outside and play. It’s not that I didn’t like to go outside, it’s more that I could go outside in a book just as easily. But not just outside—I could go to a completely different world altogether.

I could fight dragons and wear armor and ride eagles and defeat sinister sorcerers. I could turn myself into someone else, or turn someone else into myself. The draw of books for me was strong, and it has never left. I continue to read now so that I can immerse myself into the most intimate thoughts and dealings of another person, even though they usually aren’t real. I like to question their actions and compare them to what I would have done instead. I like to smell flowers when there aren’t any around, and I like to feel the wind pull at my hair even when I’m sitting on the couch with the windows closed.

Reading teaches me about many things, but it mostly teaches me about myself. I’m sure that you’ve all read the article about how reading fiction can change your brain (if not, you can read it here). Who knows what sort of intricate web mine is after reading fiction exhaustively for the last many years.

I read because of the personal benefits I find in it. I read because it expands my mind and tests the limits of my thoughts. It empowers me and it humbles me. I’m an addict and if reading weren’t such a positive thing I’d be in trouble.

I think that there are differences between casual readers and constant ones. I know people who read on occasion and who really enjoy it, although they would probably choose to be stranded on an island with music instead of literature. I know people who can read articles and studies like there’s no tomorrow, but hand them a book and they feel as if it weighs a thousand pounds.

But, humans read, whether they like it or not. It is, at least for me, the easiest form of communication, the most straightforward. You read signs that point you to your destination, you read text messages and social media statuses, you read blogs and articles and news stories. You read because it has become part of human nature, but you enjoy it because it is a part of your soul.

I would choose books over movies, music, parties, and almost any other kind of entertainment, and I think that goes beyond the human instinct of communication. Readers read because it sparks a fire in them, just like dancing or cars do in others. So why do we read instead of pursuing another hobby? I read because as much as I can experience new things in the world, books will always take me a few steps farther. I’m not much of an adventurer at this point, but I can tell you I’ll probably never come across an Ent or a talking polar bear no matter how many roads I travel in person.

I’m a reader because books can sometimes speak truer than anything else, even if they’re fiction. Readers read because that’s what they’re wired for, either psychologically or socially.

So, what makes you read, reader?

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11 thoughts on “What Makes a Reader Read?

  1. The magic. I love diving into a world where almost anything is possible, where the normal becomes strange and the strange becomes normal. I love seeing how a word or two can change the world and even change people. Ever since I read Harry Potter, I’ve been an avid reader, and also an avid writer. In fact, I doubt I’d be the same person I am if I hadn’t been exposed to those books when I was at my most impressionable. I might not even be an avid reader, God forbid.

  2. I’m always perplexed when I run into people who openly exclaim that they don’t like to read….they must be from another planet. I almost pity them their flat existence. Reading has brought more depth and enjoyment to my life than any other hobby.

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