Why I Read

Quote Tattoo

Photo: designzzz.com/literary-tattoos/

Reading books is guilt-free. Not since childhood has anyone said to me, “You read too much” or “Why do you read so much?” (Although I got that all the time during my school years!) It is a respectable hobby.

To be honest, it does have its downside. Being engrossed in a book can lead to ignoring responsibilities, just like being engrossed in a video game. Reading can teach me about things I’ve never done, but can easily replace the actual doing of them – which is not always a good thing. And reading, unless performed on a treadmill, is completely sedentary and can lead to a couch-potato lifestyle.

So let’s pretend my lifestyle is active and balanced. Why sit around and read books?

To fill time. Reading is portable and can be done most places. I would rather read an e-book or a free newspaper than play with my phone. (Maybe I just don’t have enough people waiting for my news-of-the-moment through texts or Facebook!)

To relax. I associate relaxation reading with unchallenging books. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If I really want to relax, I read the latest Wendy Holden book!

To be entertained. This is different from relaxation reading. For example, a thriller or a horror novel is entertaining (to those who enjoy them), but not necessarily relaxing.

To be social. I have friends, family and co-workers who talk books, and we love sharing what we’ve read and recommending titles to each other.

Subcategories of being social:

HP Book Release in Berlin (Photo: http://www.reuters.com/news/picture/waiting-for-harry-potter?articleId=USRTR2OI0Y#a=1)

HP Book Release in Berlin (Photo: reuters.com/news/picture/waiting-for-harry-potter?articleId=USRTR2OI0Y#a=1)

Fandom – Following an author or a series and sharing the excitement, in real life or online. It’s fun to have a community of book geeks who pore over every detail of Harry Potter or the Song of Ice and Fire!

To Seem Cultured and Smart. After reading a few books, we will be!

For Bragging Rights – To claim I read it first (only among book nerds, of course). I suppose there is also competitive reading?

To Compare Media – To insist it was better than the movie (as all of us bookish folks do)

To Read Aloud – A shared activity, to encourage a child’s interest in the written word, or to provoke a reaction from anyone in the room

To Be a Role Model – To set a good example for kids or teens – or a spouse or a parent – or anyone, for that matter. Did you know: the best indicators of whether a child will enjoy reading are whether someone reads to them, whether there are books in the home, and whether they see parents or other adults reading on their own?

To Get Quiet Time – as a break from busier, noisier activities

To Get “Me” Time – as a purposeful solo activity to retreat from the demands of others

For Inspiration – to motivate toward a goal or develop a desired mindset (daily affirmations, anyone?)

For Brain Exercise – to keep it active (I trust that’s not a worry yet, but I am just making sure)

To Improve Attention and Focus – and reverse the effects of sound bites and screen time. This is working for me. A few years ago, I read mostly nonfiction that I could stop and start easily between interruptions. Now I prefer novels and I can sit and read for two hours at a stretch – which I hadn’t done for decades – it took practice!

If you were here...your memory might need refreshing! (Merry Prankster Bus circa 1964)

If you were here…your memory might need refreshing! (Merry Prankster Bus circa 1964)

To Trigger Memories – Some like to read about past events because it helps them recall happier times – or perhaps work through difficult issues.

To Change or Maintain My World View – Sometimes I read “openly” and I let my mind be changed. Other times I read to validate what I already think and know. Rom says he reads to change the filter through which he sees the world.

World Knowledge – I like to experience places, people and events through books and get both knowledge and a “feeling” for things I can’t experience in real life: maybe the Crystal Palace in the 1850s or Warhol’s Factory in the 1960s or living in North Korea today. It answers my question, “What was it like?” through either fact or fiction.

For Information – to support daily life. For me, stuff like cookbooks and travel guides.

To Satisfy Curiosity – I wonder about something, and decide to read a book about it. Do dogs dream? Is it true they can’t see in colour? How much better is their sense of smell than ours?

For Expertise – to know something in-depth. In my case, reading about rock music history.

One of the many

One of the many

For Education – to learn about a new topic. When the 2008 recession ramped up, I read everything I could get my hands on about economics.

For Formal Study – to support coursework or a program of study. In which I am not engaged right now.

For Work – for career development or assigned reading. A couple of years ago all the managers in my workplace were required to read Leadership and Self-Deception.

For Literary Reasons:

For Book Industry Information – to keep up with trends and/or assist customers. I do this for my library job.

For Writerly Inspiration – for aspiring authors to learn from the greats (or to out-write the not-so-greats)



For Connection with the Literary Tradition – to connect with writers and thinkers throughout history; to feel inspired by literature and culture and ideas

For Language Love – to explore the use of vocabulary and language in prose. I am knocked out when an author is a word whiz and makes the pages sing. I enjoy both mastery and cleverness!

For Self-Reflection – to get inside the author’s or character’s world and feel empathy for their experiences; to compare and contrast their experiences with my own

Now you know why I read, and read, and read. I never run out of reasons!


  1. I read because I like too and I can!!

  2. Fiona

    That is such a great list! Sometimes the students at my school say, ‘why would anyone like reading?’ (admittedly, not many do say this as we have many book-loving students, but some do.) I will have plenty of ideas to draw upon from this post the next time that crops up!

    I am pleased that I can still sit down and read for a 2 hour stretch when time allows; but not pleased that my reading habits are so narrowly focussed. I still almost binge-read professional work material while not balancing that with the leisure, literary and personal sides of reading.

    • Thanks. I wonder if there will come a time when you’ve read most of the major works in your field that are relevant to you. But maybe not because education publishing is endless!

  3. NicolaB

    What a list! I wouldn’t have thought of most of those!
    At the moment, I would say that I mostly read for inspiration/to learn something new. For instance, I am reading a book about the Third Reich at the moment (a ‘brief history’) as I felt that it was important, and that there were lots of gaps in my knowledge.
    I used to read lots of novels and fiction and be completely absorbed in another world…perhaps I will get back to that after my current bout of non fiction.

    • I am the opposite. I read nonfiction for years because I found it easier to “come and go” from it, and didn’t have the uninterrupted time to enjoy novels. Now I like reading more history and fewer how-to books!

  4. Juhli

    I currently read for pleasure of the story or information and love of words. OK, I will read a book I don’t enjoy if we are going to discuss it at book club but otherwise I am quick to stop reading a book if I am not enjoying it. I do have to be careful not to let reading substitute for exercise, doing or socializing as I could, and have, spend the whole day reading. My Mom got me hooked on books by taking us by bus to the library every two weeks and basically letting us check out anything we wanted.

    • My mom read aloud to us every night and my parents also took us to the library weekly – my dad escorted us to the children’s department while my mom got to browse on her own. My mom has always been and still is a tremendous reader. I’m like you – there are too many great books in the world to spend time reading bad ones, but I have also toughed out some unpleasant ones for my book club! Luckily that’s rare and I have enjoyed most of them. I have a shelf on my Goodreads page of our book club selections.

  5. Kris

    Wonderful parents to have instilled the love of books and reading! My main reading: to escape into a different world.

    • Kris, do you like sci-fi and fantasy that are set in other worlds, or just anything different from your day-to-day life?

      • Kris

        I like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld type of sci-fi – a “normal” kind of world with other-worldly characters. I’m not into any “spacey” (to coin a word) science fiction. My preferred reading is murder-mystery, with round characters who lead a life away from the main storyline – Elizabeth George is an excellent example as author.

      • I have read some Elizabeth George but only one Terry Pratchett. It would be so hard to go back and catch up on Discworld!

  6. Hear, hear. Well said. I love the woman’s paired tattoos.

  7. Well said. I think you covered all my reasons too. 🙂

  8. I blame it on how I was raised. If i asked a question, my parents would ask me if I had looked for the answer (before the internet). I was raised with an Encyclopedia, Almanacs, Dictionaries, and a library card. I was told that the answer to everything could be found in a book (not the most spiritual people).
    I generally read for pleasure, escape, or to learn – and the best is still a book that rings all three chimes.

  9. I read for mainly education and enjoyment. I wish more people read. More and more I finding people just like discussion tv shows that I honestly know nothing about.

    • I am hopeless at TV; I only watch Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory on DVD (nice combination?) But happily where I work at the library, we all read and discuss books (as well as movies and TV shows).

  10. The book is always better than the movie. My youngest son doesn’t read much,unless it’s related to his profession, but if a movie based on a book comes out he will call me and ask if the book was good enough to bother watching the movie. 🙂

    I never stopped to think why I read, only that I do because I feel a need to and I love it.

    • I can’t think of any movie better than the book. I guess I think about why I read because so many people don’t choose or want to read books, and I think about why.

  11. That’s quite a list! I’ve always been one of those “you read too much” people too but really, I would much rather read a book than watch TV or movies any day.

  12. Reading is my favorite 🙂 I’ve listed as a hobby before during “ice breakers” or getting to know you type activities in school or when I was taking college classes. Which confused a lot of people who didn’t seem to think reading was a hobby/activity. I read books most often for entertainment/enjoyment/escape first and to learn second. I find myself doing a lot of research online when I come across something unfamiliar, not necessarily reading a whole book about it.

  13. Ditto.

    I read therefore/because I am.

  14. I love that you said both ‘to change and maintain world views’ – that you added the maintain, truly you are exacting. I love reading. I feel that blogging takes away from my reading time a bit, although then I guess I am just reading blogs, not books – not too dissimilar really?

    • I feel the same, Holly – sometimes I read blog posts for hours, but I read blogs to connect with people, and read books more to be on my own (and discuss them later!) The reason I said “change or maintain” is because sometimes I really want to challenge my own views, and sometimes I just want to read something I already know I agree with!

  15. I love reading to wind down before going to sleep, nothing relaxes me more!

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