Why do you read?

Lately, I have been picking some really good books. I can’t say that every book has been overwhelmingly liked by others, but for whatever reason, they’ve worked for me.  I’ve either enjoyed them because reading them was such an enjoyable experience, or they’ve stretched me a bit as a reader. This got me thinking… why do most people read?

I read to escape, but I also read to confront my fears. I don’t shy away from the dark, depressing stories like some readers do.  But, I just finished a wonderfully atmospheric book (can you guess which one?) and then picked up a really heavy read and I just about cried. It physically pained me to read it, yet I forced myself to finish it. Normally this type of book wouldn’t bother me at all, but jumping on that horse after just returning to the stable with the other one really shook me up.

If you only read one type of book, you would miss that feeling of being jarred right out of your senses. Wouldn’t you? Although the feeling wasn’t pleasant, I felt as if it was almost necessary for me to appreciate the writing of that heavier book. Had I read that book after finishing a book like it, I think I would have missed a lot of the raw, bitterness that was contained within those pages.

So my question to you is, why do you read? Is it for pure entertainment? To feel good? To challenge yourself in some way? And if you’ve ever found yourself in a reading funk, have you ever gone back to see what books you read during that time to see if you could have shaken it up a bit?

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57 thoughts on “Why do you read?”

  1. I read to be entertained however since I have started blogging, I have read and enjoyed books I would have never even thought of reading before. I am a mood reader which makes reading review books a challenge at times. As far as reading funks go, I have them quite a bit lately. I try to read something short and light to get the reading mojo going again. Somehow finishing a quick, light read usually gets me motivated again. Great questions!

    1. I try not to be too snobby when it comes to choosing books but if I am being honest, I sometimes will overlook a book because it’s “too light” even though it could be a very enjoyable read. That’s why I am mixing in lighter titles here and there, to break things up and discovering that “light” doesn’t necessarily mean that its written with less skill. I find that I appreciate the heavier stuff if I have something to compare them against.

  2. I read because I must. Truly. I require it for my sanity. Sometimes it’s for escape – and that reason has been a big one in my life in the last few years. Sometimes for relaxation. Sometimes for knowledge. It’s a funny thing that knowing so much about what is being published and will be published these days, I seem to have a tendency to get into reading slumps easier. Is it being overwhelmed with choices? Perhaps. I know that it seems to be a little harder to settle on a book these days. My mind races with possibilities – should I choose this one or this one or this one?

    I feel I’m like an addict in some ways. I’m constantly seeking that feeling that comes when I’ve just finished a wonderful, meaningful read. You know, the ones that you want to hug to your chest afterward. Doesn’t have to be a happy book, but a satisfying one, for whatever reason. It doesn’t happen with every book, certainly, but I’m ever hopeful. LOL

    1. I often feel the same way! If a weekend goes by without reading, I am a lunatic come the work week. It grounds me in a way that a spa massage can’t. I am always seeking that perfect read.

  3. I have always loved to read…I remember what it felt like to be in first grade already knowing how to read…my mom always told everyone about her Patty…the reader. I always had a book in my hands…always.
    It is not an escape for me…more of a passion and perhaps a curiosity about what goes on in other people’s minds. There is also this actual physical need of mine to have books near me…which is so weird now since most of what I read is ” Kindalized “…
    Complexed, flawed characters intrigue me. Mystery, dysfunction, family drama, quests, these all appear in what I choose to read.

    characters appeal to me and drama and dysfunction and mystery always intrigue me.

    1. There is a comfort that comes with reading and having books nearby. I feel at ease…at peace, as if all the planets are aligned and everything is right in the world. Plus the act itself usually involves QUIET time which with two kids in the house, is a rarity for me.

    1. Do you find then that you choose books that are different from your everyday life? I tend to pick very simple books that center around domesticity which is weird because I certainly don’t need to read about MORE domesticity than what I already live. LOL.

      1. I have never thought about it like that, but yes, I tend to be drawn to fantasy, science fiction, and other quirky generas. Rarely do I read realistic fiction or anything that is like normal life.

  4. What a great post today Ti! I’m sure I read for many reasons, but a couple that come to mind to me are to learn, entertain, and also to stretch my imagination. I don’t mind reading a book out of my normal genre if it is written well. One that I think of is Lamb Bright Saviors, which I reviewed in the last month. Although it wasn’t a novel for me the writing was so good I didn’t mind reading it. I don’t mind reading books that aren’t all happy and fluffy either. I just started reading Testimony by Anita Shreve and that certainly started out with a bang.

    1. Do you think that non-readers are the way they are because they get that “comfort” that we all seek, from something else? I am still struggling with The Boy. We’ve found books that he enjoys but he still argues that it’s not fun, not interesting, blah blah.

  5. I read for a variety of reasons: to be entertained, to escape, to learn, to think and be challenged, to laugh or cry, to reflect, to be comforted, and to be inspired–sometimes all of these things at once and other times just for one or two of them. Whatever I need most from a book at any given time. I think that is why I read such a wide variety of books. Like you, I do not shy away from the more serious books. Often they end up being my favorites. I do like the lighter fair too, which seems to be what I am in the mood for right now.

    1. When I was younger, entertainment was probably my main reason for reading. Now, mostly to escape. I get so tired and burned out from the day-to-day routine.

  6. I read for a few reasons. The biggest I think is it calms me. I can be an anxious person at times and if I can pick up a book and get involved in it, I will find myself calmer. I also read to escape life. It’s a wonderful way to just get away from everything and enjoy a world different from yours especially in the case of books taking place in other countries with cultures completely unlike mine. Finally I read to learn. You know how I like historical fiction. It leaves me with knowledge of different times in history that I would never have known about otherwise.

    I also read different kinds of books and do not normally shy away from difficult books – the exception being the one we discussed. I love a variety of genres and find it hard to believe that anyone can read only one type. I love to mix it up.

    Great question Ti. I look forward to see other responses on it as well. Have a great day.

    1. It’s funny, I don’t really feel calm while reading, but after reading a good chunk of something, I feel more grounded and things don’t bother me as much. Often, what I’ve read puts things in perspective for me.

  7. I read for a variety of reasons as well. I call my blog Take Me Away because that’s what I feel like reading does… regardless of the genre or topic, I feel like I’m taken away from what’s going on in my life at that moment to immersing myself in someone else’s story. Sometimes I just need an entertaining read with a fast plot, but sometimes I like to really appreciate the writing or the characters. And lately I’ve really been getting into non-fiction and have found I love learning about different things. I’ve always been a reader, but looking at my reading tastes just from college to now, it is so different. While some books have stayed the same, back then I read almost completely chick lit and I loved that escape, whereas now I like heavier books with more themes and things to learn or think about.

    1. I love the name of your blog! It decribes how many of us readers feel, while reading. I am a very grouchy lady if I don’t have my reading time.

    1. I still have young kids and with a struggling family business, the money is sometimes tight so if I can travel somewhere by reading, then that’s a definite plus. Of course, reading about other places makes me yearn to go there, too. LOL.

  8. Gosh, what a loaded question. There are a number of reasons why I read. One it’s so ingrained in me that I can’t help but read. Second, I read to escape whatever is going on in my life that has me down. Third, I read to keep that analytical writer mind of mine awake and thinking. I need to be challenged and to examine books in ways that others may not, since I really want to finish at least one manuscript before I hit 40. Those are some of the reasons, but I’ve always just loved the entertainment of a good story, especially in books because I can use my imagination coupled with the words to create a whole new world.

  9. I love this post and I’ve thought about the topic. I’ve recommended books to people and they’ve come back and said they couldn’t finish it because it was too dark or depressing and they read to be entertained. That made me realize that while I enjoy entertaining reads, they aren’t the main ones I pick up. I read to learn more about the world around me, to challenge my beliefs, to become aware of new concepts, etc. I think it’s important not just to look at reading as amusement, you’ll miss a huge opportunity to see the world from a new perspective.

    1. I agree! A lot of people tell me that they don’t want to be sad or depressed by reading what I do, but I am rarely sad or depressed while reading a darker story. In fact. I often feel pretty darn good about what I have when I put it in perspective.

  10. Oh I need to get out of my shell a bit more. I mainly read for the escape, it started as a child and continues now. I always tell my husband, the non-reader, “there’s a whole other world out there, and you’re missing it all!”. To which he usually replies, “why don’t you just stay in this one?”. Ugh, he’ll never understand! But, I do need to have my senses jarred a bit more. I do read a lot based on blogger recommendations, so that’s good. I am that person who shies away from the sad stuff though. =( I don’t like to be sad.

  11. Sheesh, the floodgates have been opened! Obviously we have alot to say on this topic! I love to escape, but also to learn and to experience things I wouldn’t otherwise. I don’t know if I would survive if I couldn’t read.

    1. I am always amazed at the number of titles you go through, given that you are nearly always, zipping around the world (or so it seems). You are like a real-life Energizer bunny.

  12. I read for enjoyment, to expand my horizons and of course escape. I can put off doing most anything to sit and read. And trust me, I do ALL the time. I try to be open about what I read but do tend to shy away from books that are depressing. The little boy in Sarah’s Key still haunts me.

    When I find myself in a funk, I never look back. I will read my TBR shelves, my lists of books until something calls to me. Sometimes I just need a few days to digest what I have been reading. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of audio which seems to keep me in the loop when I am not actually reading a physical book.

    1. I seriously wish I could just read all day. I do get bored with my TBR shelf so I always toss a few unplanned titles into the mix. I haven’t read Sarah’s Key, but that author has another book out now. Might be worth checking out.

  13. I read to escape, but also to understand the people and world around me. I read different genres for different reasons, and feel that I need to read to keep myself sane. I read a study not that long ago that said that readers of fiction have better success in relating to other people and situations than readers who only read nonfiction, or who don’t read at all, and that is something that I have believed for a long time. Reading takes me places both mentally and emotionally that help me to understand myself as well. This was a great question and it got some very inspired and interesting answers!

    1. Interesting study. My husband is a non-reader and we are always butting heads when it comes to dealing with people or even our own kids! We see things differently. I really have no idea how I ended up with a non-reader! Seems very out of character for me. LOL.

  14. I was about to say I read for entertainment, then I thought actually I read to escape. Escape from the dreary existence of monotonous life. Well then again if my life wasn’t that monotonous and have a lot more interesting things to do (like photography or travelling) then maybe I’ll read a lot less!

    If I’m on a reading funk, I read thrillers and books with clear and simple prose.

    No straight answers I guess, I read because I read.

  15. I’ve been a reader since I can remember…I love the library, the smells, the quiet…in grad school when I would get really really stressed, almost past the point of no return, I would go to the stacks on the third floor…it was quiet there and I could walk around, find a spot on the floor and curl up with something I randomly pulled from the shelves. If I had to choose one reason I read, it would be for sanity. I’m me when I’m reading…it’s comfortable and I’m in my own world. I also read to learn though…I love getting involved in a new topic and reading everything I can find about it.

    When I’m in a funk, I read the shortest, no brainer stuff I can find…series reads are also good as long as you already have a good background…it’s like visiting and old friend 🙂

    1. I remember my reading days in college. I read popular fiction back then. Mostly thrillers but I would find a spot on the third floor of the university library, kick back in those comfortable chairs and just lose myself in whatever I was reading. I had long days at school (long commute) so I would spend HOURS in the library. I work in the basement of that same building now.

  16. I read for many reasons. It is pure pleasure to get lost in a really great book. But it is also rewarding to find myself involved in a book I have been prompted to read. My reading has risen to a higher level by taking advice and diving into more literary tomes I might have passed over if not for a little push from others.

    I like what Patti just said about reading for sanity. That is also me. It is a type of escapism. Reading is my favorite passtime.

    1. I like for a book to challenge me in some way, even if it’s not a “heavy” read. Maybe it sits just outside of my comfort zone or maybe it deals with a tough subject or one that I am not used to reading about, but it has to have something to give me pause. That’s my gripe about a lot of women’s fiction. The topics can be heavy but so many authors barely scratch the surface with them. I tend to avoid those.

  17. I read because it is the only way to tune out the voices in my head;) Not real voices, mind you. I think, for me, it is an escape from something rather than to somewhere. When I am reading, reality falls away and it is just me, sitting in my favorite chair in the sun. The thing that hurt a minute ago, whether physical or mental, suddenly doesn’t ache anymore.

    Reading is also one of the few things that hold my concentration for any measurable length of time. That is a huge sanity booster.

    1. That’s a sign that the book is really good, too. When you are sitting in that chair and it’s just you and the world created within those pages…ah, perfection. I love that feeling.

  18. I think I read for all sorts of reasons: entertainment, to learn more, to escape, to laugh, to cry. That is why reading is rewarding and I’ll never get tired of it.

  19. I have always read to escape and for entertainment. Now I read for those reasons as well as to learn and stretch my mind and to experience thoughts, ideas, behavior I woulodn’t otherwise encounter. I get irritated with myself when I’m being lazy about my reading which means I think I’m reading too many books that are too light or aren’t stretching my mind and making me work.

    I always have a book with me even if I’m just going to the grocery store because I hate having to wait on lines or for any reason if I don’t have a book or something good to read. I get grouchy. I also get grouchy if I haven’t been able to read for a long time!

    This is a great question, Ti!

    1. When I read books that are too light for me, I actually feelmy brain shrinking and I get stupid in an air-heady kind of way. I don’t enjoy being like that or feeling that way.

  20. I hate to read the same kind of books over and over. One thing I love about having an eclectic taste is that I’m always surprised by what kind of book will next catch my fancy. Will it be a literary fiction with fallible characters, or a magical realism with unimaginable setting, or a symbolic book that stretches my imagination too much, or an ohmygodly book with characters doing things I can never comprehend. I love being challenged and that’s when I’m most glad that reading is my hobby.

  21. I am a mood reader, and although sometimes I have trouble concentrating when I’m in a funk, it’s something I must do even if it is in short spurts.

    My reading is eclectic, but I’m especially drawn to coming of age stories, sad stories or stories about dysfunctional people and situations….no need to ask — makes me feel better about a screwed up childhood, even at my age:)

  22. I read for some many reasons….to escape my current world, to learn about others, to realize that my pain is not unique, to get a glimpse into someone else’s fears which may be my own….to be entertained, to escape, to dream, to fantasize, to question my own thoughts and beliefs…and last because reading is like breathing to me.

  23. I don’t think I read to escape, I don’t really have anything to escape from.

    I think I just read for enjoyment.

    I find a lot of enjoyment and pleasure in taking myself out of myself and into another character or another world or another time etc and just seeing things from a new and different perspective. I think that maybe although I a mnot a very creative person, I am an imaginative one and reading allows me to use my imagination in a way it wouldn’t otherwise get used as an adult.

    1. Reading does take a bit of imagination no matter how good the author is. I think that is why my husband gets so bored when he reads. He HATES reading and will not even try it anymore. He’s not all that imaginative. He is needs to see things up close and personal for him to relate to it.

  24. Ti, I’ve been reading since I was little and truthfully, I couldn’t imagine not reading. Its just something I have to do. I’ve learned so much from reading and I think that is what I enjoy most from it. Also, I love those rare times when you come across a book that is so genius, it reminds you of why you fell in love with reading in the first place. Those are my favorite reads.

  25. Great post – I need to come back and read through all the comments. I really like reading about how you react to your books and I do think you pick amazing titles. I think I read for all the reasons and it can vary tremendously but I do seem to gravitate towards books that MATTER though what that mean can change, too. I guess it is in contrast to a friend of mine – love her dearly – but we read TOTALLY different stuff and seldom like the same book. (She thought THE HELP was boring.) She admitted to me that she has never read a memoir and doesn’t care to and my reaction only seems to confirm that I am a booksnob. sigh…

    1. Well, you are not alone in your snobiness. If you can get a book into my hands that doesn’t fall into the categories I normally read and the writing is amazing…I will let down my guard and give credit where credit is due but it takes a lot to get that book into my hands.

      The Help? Boring! Good grief! I have friends that read Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel! I try to get better books into their hands all the time. Sometimes I am successful.

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