Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why Do You Read (semi) meme

I got this from Dewey who got it from Care. The question is simple. Why do we read?

Dewey's answer was great. It was partly universal and partly personal. In particular I have to shout a loud Amen to this: "In a way, reading serves a similar purpose for me, physically, that sleeping does." And I gotta love this: "I also read because I’m an extremely verbal person. My whole life revolves around language and literature and communication; it’s really not just the leisure reading thing."

I read because it feeds me; it nourishes me. Not only could I not imagine going a few days or a few weeks without reading, it's hard for me to longer than a half a day without picking up a book. I'm a book glutton. (That's why migraines are the worst of the worst. Sometimes I probably push the limit--either way when they're coming or going--just because I can't take it.) Reading is personal. It's something I do alone. It's something that secludes me from the world while I'm doing it. It's me time pure and simple. Good, old-fashioned, quality me-time. I do a lot of reading at night. Probably a little over half my reading is done after 10PM. It's not unheard of for me to read a bit here and there throughout the day. But at night it's all about me. It's all about the book. No interruptions. Perfect peace. I am content as long as there is a pile of books by my bed. Reading recharges me. (Though some books act like more of a drain.) Reading refreshes me. I read because it keeps me sane. It keeps me happy. It satisfies.

But I also read to connect with the world around me. Books help me process everything. I grew up, for the most part, in a reading household. My mom, my sister, and I all read books. And for the most part, we had a shared reading history there for a while. My mom would read aloud to us. She'd buy us books. So whether we were reading them for the second or the fiftieth time, we shared a bond not only with the book, but with each other. We three--but especially mom and I--speak the language of books. Reading is such a fundamental part of who we are, that it provides the framework for a good many of our discussions, our conversations. It's our own inside-language if you will.

But it's not just a family thing--important as that is--reading helps build relationships. It does. The bond you form with a book--or perhaps I should word that the bond I form with a book--translates easily into forming bonds with another reader. You can "bond" in minutes with someone once you know what books you've read and loved and have in common.

I do have a few friends that don't read. Or read that much. So it isn't a prerequisite necessarily.

But some of my best friends (I'm thinking of two in particular) became my best friends because of books. (Well books and food). There are few things better than bookish conversations. (Unless they're bookish conversations in a food-friendly environment). Book conversations can make two strangers friends if the talk is good. Out of a room of people, a class room, was it an accident that I became bonded to someone who grew up reading Gone With The Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird? I think not! We've had thousands of conversations since then, discussed thousands of books since then.

But talking about books is one of the fastest ways I know to make friends. I think it is because you get to have some idea what a person is like based on what their favorite books are. If you find someone that shares your tastes not always, not completely, but most of the time, you feel a strong connection--a strong intuition--that you might be similar in other ways. That you might get along well with each other.

And I haven't even gotten to the blogging world. The book blogosphere is so incredibly awesome. You read so you can be a part of something greater than yourself. You read to be a part of the community. It's all give and take. You take and give back from the community. It refreshes you; it inspires you. And in return you give back what you've learned. You give back a part of yourself.

Reading connects you with the author, connects you with the actual book, connects you with every other reader who has picked up that book, connects you with a time and place.

Aren't there certain books where you can remember what you were doing, where you were, how you were feeling when you first picked them up? Or am I the only one out there that gets this connected. There are some books I associate with a certain time, place, and sometimes even a smell. I read with my senses. If I read a book while listening to music, I connect that music with the book.

Anyway, if you want to share your thoughts, leave a comment or post on your own blog. But please think to leave a link if you do so I can read what you have to say!


Dewey said...

I have that same connection with time and place and memory thing. If I think of any book that made even a small impact on me, I can picture where I was reading, what else was going on in my life, what I ate while reading, everything.

What you and a commenter on my blog said about reading aloud made me wonder about something. I have ZERO memories of being read to as a child, but I was a big-time reading aloud mom myself. My son was born 2 months premature, and the first thing I did, since the doctor suggested taping my voice to have in his incubator with him, was read Dr Seuss books into that recorder. So he spent his first month with my voice reading Dr Seuss 24 hours a day! No wonder that kid loves books. :)

Megan said...

I definitely do that connection thing, too. I can picture myself reading White Fang on a snowy afternoon in middle school hoping I'd have school off the next day. And The Lord of the Rings on a hot summer day while drying out after a nice cool swim. And all manner of Stephen King novels that I couldn't put down while on vacation - and reading sometimes late, late into summer nights (which, surprisingly, never gave me nightmares). Funny how that happens, isn't it?

Alix said...

Really interesting post. I do the memory thing and there are so many songs that bring to mind books too.