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:
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!
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.
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!