to ask you why you read?

(114 Posts)

bit of a weird Q. But I've realised that I read for two reasons: to learn stuff (a lot is non-fiction), or just because it's a habit. I would feel strange without a book on the go, almost guilty! Which is crazy. And I don't think it's necessarily a good thing- means less time to absorb, to really think about what I've been reading, and it probably isn't doing my attention span much good- to always fill time like this. My mum always used to say "put the book down and MEDITATE for once" when I was a kid and I thought, that's for old people, but she has a point. I also have a funny sort of fear that I'm running out of time and I won't have time to learn all the things that I want to learn- which is silly. But every time I read a book, it makes me want/need to read ten more.
My dad reads anything, but mostly it's all historical. My mum doesn't read that much anymore except on her obsessions (we share this trait) but when she was younger it was all philosophy/C17-19th fiction. I read about specific interests and if it's novels, they're by people referenced in the history books I like as colourful characters.....

So why do you read? Do you think it's better to read slowly and take time in between the tomes, or do you always have several on your bedside table? Have you always been a reader, do you think it might be just as "bad" as screens and prolonged use of games consoles are if they get additictive.....so a bit of a two pronged question I guess. I'm interested in hearing people talk about reading tho, it's a nice benign friendly topic, and I know MN is book obsessed wink

BigShinyBaubles Sat 05-Jan-13 21:17:46

I have to read before I go to sleep. Even when I've been out I have to read a few pages.
I even read my Dss David Walliams books because he enjoyed them so much smile

joanofarchitrave Sat 05-Jan-13 21:21:13

To teleport somewhere else - another mind, place, story, idea, theory, wordscape. Anywhere but where I am.

It is a very selfish habit. Marriage and reading are not really compatible. However, I would consider any active attempt to prevent me reading as grounds for divorce.

MuddlingMackem Sat 05-Jan-13 21:23:07

Agree with those who say reading is like breathing, you just do it without thinking as you read everything around you.

I have cut back on books and newspapers since having the kids, if I started reading either I couldn't keep my eyes open, but have been getting back into it in the past couple of years. Thank goodness for the internet, I've still read forums, online papers, etc.

I like a wide range of stuff and definitely fall into the 'because it was there' class of reasoning, and it seems so does DS (9), which is brilliant. DD is still a work in progress though, but I'm hopeful. wink

deleted203 Sat 05-Jan-13 23:36:01

I'm interested that lots of us use reading as escapism. Please tell me that I'm not the only one who when stressed out to the eyeballs will get a quarter of sweeties and happily re-read something like my old Enid Blytons?? I find reading my way through 'Malory Towers' or the 'Folk of the Faraway Tree' incredibly de-stressing. I am 9 again.....and have no worries grin.

nothruroad Sun 06-Jan-13 00:03:19

Definitely not the only one, so worn out. Enid Blyton and chalet school books in the bath are my favourite de-stressing technique. I plan to get them all for my kindle eventually so I can read them in the park without being judged!

ImperialBlether Sun 06-Jan-13 00:15:01

nothruroad, I came home late recently very, very stressed from work and made some hot chocolate to take to bed. I wanted something to read and saw a Malory Towers book on the shelf - it was JUST what I wanted. I read the whole book, drank my drink and slept like a baby!

ebersneezer Sun 06-Jan-13 00:33:25

I read fiction because i like stories, it's nice to have the contents of someone else's imagination handed to me in a book.

I read non fiction because I'm interested in non fictional info researched, processd and presented by someone else. A bit like fictional, I'm interested in their ideas.

Skillbo Sun 06-Jan-13 00:53:18

for me, reading is the absolute best past time and something i could never live without... i get quite anxious if i run out of library books and have a stash of charity books on a certain shelf for just that eventuality so there is always something new to read blush

that said, i will happily re-read old favourites (another enid blyton fan here, especially the faraway tree!)

i also don't understand how you can't want to read - it is part of who i am! but other people feel this way about stuff i have no interest in like cars or football; so who am i to judge?

i just think it is a harmless way to promote learning, expand your vocabulary, discover fantastic things and understand others better!

Have just finished one of my xmas books and this thread is making me want to start another, even though it's so late smile

Skillbo Sun 06-Jan-13 00:55:38

i obviously mean i can't understand why people don't want to read... clearly my proof reading skills need some work!

NewAndSparklyMe Sun 06-Jan-13 01:11:56

I'm always reading. Seriously. I would feel seriously incomplete and bereft if I wasn't able to read! It's part of who I am, and from as long as I can remember.
If it's not a magazine, it's a book. If it's not either of them, I'll be sat at the breakfast table reading the back of the cereal packet as I NEED something to read. grin
I love to read fiction as a form of pure escapism. To travel to different places, and immerse myself in fantasy.
I read autobiographies as I like to read about other's lives, and what they have achieved and how they have got there.
I read non fictional books as I always like to learn something new.
I also get the newspapers every day to keep abreast of the news.
I read all the celeb trash mags to know who's doing what and with who as well grin

When things are going badly, I always think, I'll always have reading. I can just open a book and plough through it and then another, and another. And then I think, my mind is protected and won't just stop, and books will keep it company and I'll keep on growing as a person, at least a little, because knowledge is power, so when the fog clears......I won't really have been left behind. So there's a little ray of hope grin

ChippingInLovesChristmasLights Sun 06-Jan-13 02:04:44

I think a lot of people read to escape from their real lives and that's quite sad. Perhaphs those that aren't avid readers have happier real lives?

achillea Sun 06-Jan-13 02:48:35

I like words and read very slowly to enjoy them which means that I hardly ever have time to read a full fiction novel. I love the way words are used and the images that are built from words and they take time to build in my mind and enjoy fully.

I find I can't afford to waste time and feel slightly abused if I read a book that's doesn't give me what I need - I've wasted a lot of time. I hate complex self-serving narrative for the sake of it and for good stories, I prefer to watch TV or films.

I read copious amounts of news or articles, online and on paper, I read that very quickly and it's 'consumed' rather than read but I feel it's inferior to book-reading which of course it isn't.

I have a very bookish friend and I think she is addicted to books. She never seems to be in the moment, always slightly somewhere else, and I think she's in her book. I think really bookish children are the same, never quite in the moment - I do believe it's as bad as any obsessive pastime - whether computer game or board game or stamp-collecting or sport.

I read a bit of Homer's Odyssey recently on the Kindle and actually really enjoyed it (all 20 pages that I managed) and the earlier phrase 'it teaches me to think' would apply here. I think that's a thing that only a book can do - so thanks for that revelation - I might be beginning to see the point of it!

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Sun 06-Jan-13 05:54:30

Like an earlier poster, I find reading physically uncomfortable now. And I feel that the things I want to learn about are much more quickly accessible and digestible online.

I grew up loving fiction, and as a child-free adult this was still the case.
Since having children and not finding it easy to fit reading into my day - plus the lack of sleep affecting my concentration, I seem to have lost the habit.

And I find so many works of fiction disappointing now, and have felt cheated so often at the end of a novel, that I'm reluctant to invest the time and energy tbh.
I think, when I was younger, if a book was well weitten I could just enjoy the words, whereas now I expect the concept and story to convince me as well, and am mightily pissed off by a poor ending.

Now that I'm nearly 50, I'm hoping that my fuzzy memory will clear again, and my aches and pains will let me have a good night's sleep so that I can concentrate for long enough to fully appreciate a book again. It'll have to be a damn good one though, as I'm not so easily pleased as I used to be.

She never seems to be in the moment, always slightly somewhere else

A lot of people have said this about me. And I can tell you I usually always have half an eye/ear open so I can react quickly, but sometimes I don't notice people practically yelling my name or even tapping me on the shoulder, and the being alert is more of a learned habit. I'm not necessarily thinking about my book. Maybe, sometimes. But I do have a real problem with "living in the moment" which I actually DO blame books for- only because I saw so so many sketches of perfect children and perfect adults in books over and over again when I was a child- maybe not perfect in the classic sense but with the attractive "arty" temperament or attitudes....and I have to admit I think I've kind of lost touch with myself, quite early on, through trying to be these characters. But I take risks and make snap decisions I regret, and people say that's part of "living in the moment", though I don't think it is, because at least for me personally, it just means that I don't want to sacrifice thinking time on pros/cons which are probably not going to be as interesting to me as what I'm thinking about!

Avid readers unhappy? Hmm.....don't think it's good to generalise, but it's an interesting point.....I'm sure everyone has things in their life which they'd like to switch off from for a while, but I don't think that any reading can be pure escapism, your mind/subconscious won't let it be. You'll constantly be evaluating differences and similarities between your situation and every passage you read. And I think people do realise that....

thegreylady Sun 06-Jan-13 10:45:56

I read because without reading I would not only know less I would be less. Books have helped shape me and have taken me to places I couldn't imagine. Reading is vital to my contentment and I couldn't live a fulfilled life without books.
I read books, I have a Kindle, I read on my tablet, I read magazines and newspapers,cereal packets and tissue boxes. I read in the loo,in the kitchen,in bed. I rarely watch tv and before I go to sleep I tell myself a story in my head.
I taught English and marked English gcse papers. Books are part of my lifeblood. I can't understand anyone who doesn't read.

thegreylady Sun 06-Jan-13 10:48:16

I have a wonderful marriage and glorious children and grandchildren. All of them except the 3 year old are avid readers-just for joy.
I have no doubt the youngest will be the same.

I can understand people who don't read.
I can read German fairly well but I do have to read it, word by word- instead of like with English, where I see the words- well, I don't know how to explain it properly but it's much slower and takes much more concentration. If it's anything like that for people who don't like reading- well, I totally understand, it's not reading for fun (unless you happen to like the words/language particularly).

EllieQ Sun 06-Jan-13 11:38:10

I read because I enjoy it! Like many other posters, I was an avid reader as a child. I read less now (and spend more time online, but that includes reading too, though a different 'type' of reading).

I read books to escape my own life - not because my own life is unhappy, but it is an escape from the daily routine. I read a lot of sf and fantasy, because it's more of an escape than reading about someone living a similar life to me. It's interesting to think about how life could be in the future, or if magic was real, or if vampires existed. I also read because I like a character and want to know what happens to them, particularly in a series.

Reading is also educational - I read Wolf Hall last year, which made me realise how little I knew about that period of history, so I did a bit of research (online and in reference books) to find out more. I read quite a few children's books set in the past when I was younger, and I think they were educational in a way just learning history wasn't, because they made me think about what it would be like to have lived in that time.

I'm quite baffled by the OP's inference that reading can be bad for you - I find it helps me focus more compared to being online, which can only be a good thing! Also, I find it more relaxing and try to read before going to bed to clear my mind (unless it's a very exciting book and I stay up late to read more). I also found her description of reading text on a page not in linear order a bit odd - surely that stops you reading and comprehending the text easily if you're skipping all over the page?

As others have said, escapism. I read fiction only outside of work, so it's not to learn, and I only read sci-fi/fantasy so it really is pure escapism. Some sci-fi like
Greg Egan really tests my intelligence as it has some very abstract concepts and a lot of theoretical physics in it. His books are mentally exhausting but brilliant.

And also because I am incapable of shutting my brain down, so if I don't read myself to sleep at night I'll lie awake worrying about anything and everything. Which is annoying. If my brain must be busy, it's more fun to keep it busy with spaceships or dragons that what needs to go on tomorrow's shopping list and how to solve that problem at work. grin

I don't know how not to read. I can't sit and watch a tv programme or film without picking up something to read. Whatever's close to hand. I don't know I am doing it but it annoys the hell out of other people! I can't lose myself in a film but I can in a book.

If there's an ad with text at the bottom I will read the text and not have a clue what's happening on screen. Same with subtitled films.

I have found myself reading the phone book before now grin

I'm not so good at actually concentrating on what I'm reading though so most of what I read is utter trash. Maybe its the act of reading rather than the content for me?

Ellie
The way I read was explained to me by an optometrist in my early teens- I suspect a lot of fast readers do read like this, in a zig zag way like I said. It's more like I focus on a paragraph and wherever my sight lands, the meaning of the words all together is taken in immediately, but your peripheral vision is not well developed enough to take in the whole paragraph so you piece it all together.....it's just natural to me. But this is what I don't have when I read in foreign languages which I nevertheless have a pretty sturdy background in.

Also, well, reading being somehow harmful in a way, it was just an idea....I assure you it's not original! Like I've said upthread, we might be blinded by the idea of it being all cerebral and not focusing on what it means.....am more than happy to be proved totally wrong wink

Facelikeafriendlyapple Sun 06-Jan-13 20:30:58

Definitely a means of self-medicating for me, at least in part. Reading soothes me, reassures me, jolts me out of bad moods, changes my perspective on things. Also read to lots of other reasons too - intellectual, curiosity, humour, entertainment, distraction etc etc. Sometimes films and TV can work for me in a similar way, but I don't think a day goes by where I don't read at least a couple of pages of a book, whereas lots of days can go by where I don't watch TV/films.

I don't think that's negative - I believe it's more healthy for me than looking for comfort in booze or food or similar. However, I do recognize what other people are saying about being a bit distracted or slightly absent from real life. I do definitely have days where that happens. And days where I am secretly a bit annoyed with real life people not responding to situations as the characters in my favourite books would...

nokidshere Sun 06-Jan-13 20:40:40

I cannot imagine not reading. I always have at least two or three books on the go - there are books in my handbag, in the car, next to the bed, in the bathroom - everywhere I go I read! And the Kindle has just made it easier (and less bulky)

I read 3-4 books a week, fiction and non-fiction. I have no idea why I read, I just cannot imagine life without a book to hand.

Cherrypi Sun 06-Jan-13 20:47:12

For the few times a year when a novel completely absorbs me and I can't stop reading it. smile

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