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

RuleBritannia Sat 05-Jan-13 19:50:01

I read fiction for escape to another world. I read non-fiction to take me somewhere that I could go and sometimes do.

MammaTJ Sat 05-Jan-13 19:51:04

I read fiction as total escapism. I read non fiction to learn and broaden my mind.

Dawndonna Sat 05-Jan-13 19:51:05

To learn, to think, to be challenged, to escape.

MammaTJ Sat 05-Jan-13 19:53:03

I also often have an upstairs book and a downstairs book. I carry one in my handbag to read while waiting, waiting for buses, waiting for school to kick out and waiting in queues too.

motherinferior Sat 05-Jan-13 19:53:35

Because I am awake.

chandellina Sat 05-Jan-13 19:54:59

Fiction for pleasure, media and nonfiction for learning.

HumphreyCobbler Sat 05-Jan-13 19:55:03

I couldn't NOT read.

I am mystified by those who "Don't have time to read". To me, that is like not having time to breathe or eat.

Aha Donna! if I take out the comma..."to learn to think". Maybe not WHAT to think, but I definitely read to see if I can fall in with thinking patterns- whoever's- and what they could lead to....maybe I am trying to read too much like a historian, but there's something very powerful about being a writer....and hard to analyse how you might be subliminally influenced, or to work out what they really want you to think....well, I'll stop the rambly musings, but I did have a bit of a minor lightbulb moment with that phrase grin

Tee2072 Sat 05-Jan-13 19:58:09

I read because it is necessary to my mental well being. It makes me think, takes me places, helps me sleep.

I need it in the way I need food, water and oxygen.

peaceandlovebunny Sat 05-Jan-13 19:58:52

i don't read. its physically uncomfortable and i don't have time. also most stuff is rubbish. if i want to read, i read heidi. or some such!

So you think it's unique as a medium?

StellaNova Sat 05-Jan-13 19:59:44

Have you read The Child That Books Built? It's an exploration of why the author reads, and it really struck a chord with me as it mirrored my reading so much, so much so that I thought the author was a woman (Frances) rather than a man (Francis) for most of the book!

Basically he talks about the need to lose himself in a book, and the hunt for sensation/ an emotional fix, and how a book store is kind of like a drug store with each book containing a different kind of drug - I could relate to that. Also how he always has to have a book, even if just brushing teeth or something and sometimes choosing the right book to read for 30 seconds takes 5 minutes.

I will pick up a book that I have already read and open it at random, read a bit while I am in the bath or whatever, and then go on to another bit.

I do read properly as well!

alarkthatcouldpray Sat 05-Jan-13 19:59:51

To know that I am not alone (CS Lewis I think but true for me too).

deleted203 Sat 05-Jan-13 19:59:55

Reading is FABULOUS! It's DEFINITELY not bad (unlike TV/game consoles grin). Yes, I've always been a reader - I can't remember not reading. I will read the back of cornflake packets if there is nothing else. I couldn't bear to not have a book on the go. I have read many odd things in my time, simply because there was nothing else available (once went to stay with friends for the weekend and read a biography of Kenny Dalglish and 'Training Spaniels to the Gun' simply because that appeared to be the extent of their library and I'd finished the books I'd taken with me).

Of course it is doing your attention span good! Focusing on reading and taking in information can never be a bad thing. I'm pleased that 3 of my DCs are voracious readers and a little sad that DD2 (17) isn't interested at all. Also notice how limited her spelling and vocabulary is TBH and I think it's because she doesn't read much. I know she has had problems in answering exam questions in the past, purely because she hasn't grasped the question due to not understanding a word in it.

Wanting to read more books after you've read one shows that your imagination or curiosity has been stirred and excited and you are interested to find out more. How could this be anything other than wonderful? Books can take you to another place, another time, introduce you to concepts you'd never considered, inform, educate and entertain you. Books are cool!

Totally agree re reading and breathing being pretty much linked. I never, ever understand women who seem to stop reading when they have children. I don't think it sets a good example to the children either tbh.

I read rather than watch TV and tbh my hands feel empty if I'm sitting down and don't have a book in them. I usually have one fiction and at least one non-fiction on the go at any point, and tend to be a 'gobbler' in that I will read books v v quickly and then if I like it, go back and read it again fairly soon afterwards to appreciate it a bit better.

CombineBananaFister Sat 05-Jan-13 20:03:32

I read because it's a leisure pastime I can enjoy and immerse myself in for brief spurts and then put down due to having a very active 3 yr old ds. I can very rarely get into t.v because the characters seem so 1 dimensional and have no depth compared to a book and because I can't usually hear it. I am always disappointed and bored with film adaptations as I think your imagination does better work at visualizing it, it's good escapism. I have to have a litttle rest between books though as sometimes the story/characters stay with me a bit, god I sound like right nutter - am not honestlyblush

I've read 'The Child That Books Built.' I wasn't terribly taken by it though tbh - thought it was a bit trite. I think that's pretty much true of any reader though: reading is a personal experience between what the writer has written and how the reader personally experiences it from the time/place and emotional viewpoint they are in at that v precise moment of reading - so trying to articulate it is inevitably not going to mean a great deal to anybody else.

TheBOF Sat 05-Jan-13 20:05:07

I read "stuff" because I enjoy learning, and I think that fiction can also teach you a lot about the human condition and empathy, as well as being a form of entertainment and escapism. I think that reading fiction and non-fiction is a basic sign of being interested in the world and other people, and of course there is also the pleasure of immersing yourself in the nuances of language and appreciating its beauty.

It's all good; I can't see a downside.

Lovely post btw, SoWornOut.

^ I do agree so grin books are pretty damn cool

I just think we might get blinded by all the "ooh, words- CLEVER" noises and not realise that it might just be a distraction....I mean, wasn't it Socrates who once upon a time thought that writing stories and thought down in books would be the death of something wonderful- memory? And, well, how hard it would be to measure that, but I just think.....maybe distractions are not what we need in this super-"infomanic" age? Which brought me to wonder why we read, and if sometimes it's not why we think it is. Am I just jumping onto a bandwagon and not analysing the nature of this particular distraction, yes, probably!

If I ever have children, I will SO love to introduce all my books to them- I refuse to give any away (after ferocious culls in past which I totally regret now!).....

Second time I recommend this book: a "History of Reading" by Steven Roger Fischer for all you book-lovers cross history freaks!

Vagaceratops Sat 05-Jan-13 20:07:47

Non fiction for Uni
Fiction and some other types on non fiction for pleasure. At the moment I am reading about Edward I and I am loving it.

Mrsrudolphduvall Sat 05-Jan-13 20:10:06

Not to learn.
I read what I consider quality literature, rarely nonfiction.
I read for relaxation, as I don't watch much tv.
I don't have a smartphone to occupy me on the train.

I've read avidly since i was small.
I left my book club after 5 years as I hated dissecting books...i read at least 2 a week.

Combine, if a nutter means someone who has the ability to completely absorb the sense and atmosphere of a book and get lost in something....then yeah maybe you are one, and you can be proud of being one wink I like the idea of having a "little rest" between books!

I was always struck by something in the Chalet School books (yeah, yeah, another MN obsession!)- about Joey wanting her characters to go a certain way but being "forced" to have them go another way, and Elinor M. Brent Dyer talking about it being a sign of her being a true writer.....I think it's the sign of a writer who's a reader, really....yes, you can be super popular and know people and social conventions inside out, but you also learn an awful lot about people and human nature being holed up on your own with a novel or biography.

HullyEastergully Sat 05-Jan-13 20:12:06

How would you ever know anything if you didn't read?

I have tried to answer this a few times but I can't seem to find the right words. So short and sweet will have to do.

I read because I can't stop.

Tee2072 Sat 05-Jan-13 20:15:32

peaceandlovebunny you realize you're reading right now, right? grin

I am grateful for being forced to read about some things- like History A level, didn't know what the USSR was hardly before we did it, except "it's something to do with Russia", and now it's one of my major interests. But can't stand discovering novels etc with a load of other people- and then being TESTED on it- awful. I'm usually terribly stubborn and refuse to engage blush I feel like an animal knowing it's going to be trapped in a cage. I want to flee! I like to be free in reading, it's my choice.

Level3at6months Sat 05-Jan-13 20:16:55

To escape into somebody else's world, to experience things in my head that I wouldn't in real life, to give me ideas of places I want to visit, things I'd like to do and people I'd like to be.

amillionyears Sat 05-Jan-13 20:24:27

I read non fiction.
I like to read real stuff that has presumably happened.
I like the pyscology of it all.
I cant get into much fiction. I do not have much imagination, and struggle to imagine things.

ScramblyEgg Sat 05-Jan-13 20:25:10

Because I love it.

Tralalalaha Sat 05-Jan-13 20:29:52

What in earth could I do with a smartphone that would be better than a good book? The only upside of my commute is the extra reading time. I can't remember not reading and wanting to read. I can't imagine not reading every day. It's a bit like asking why I breathe or talk or eat or sleep.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

To be honest I think non fiction requires at leas the same amount of imagination! With fiction, it's all about the image the author is creating- and it's like a nest, you have to relax against it and trust it and not try to poke holes in it.....it's like art, you need to be hit with the overall impression. Nothing is superfluous. It's hard for me to read fiction because I don't read in a very linear fashion- I look at the middle of a chunk of text, then the sides, top and bottom and zig zag down a page instead of reading word after word as they are intended to be read. I shouldn't do that, I'm not absorbing what the writer has made.
Well, that's my take. But if you're reading about say the Cuban Missile Crisis, it's incredibly hard to imagine why people got so hugely worried about it- because (usually) you haven't had that threat in your adult lifetime (especially people of my generation- hard to teach it in schools, the same way it's hard to get the message about global warming across to anyone nowadays!). Or if you're reading about something way back in history- wow. I find it very hard to get into anything about ancient civilisations, always have (unless it's about something I feel is relevant to me personally- i.e. Cleopatra I love, as a feminist icon). I think my imagination is limited in this. People like Mary Beard and my grandmother (read Classics at uni) are just amazing.

brighthair Sat 05-Jan-13 20:34:17

Because it's there grin
I read everything without knowing, back of cereal packets, road signs, estate agents phone numbers.. Been like this since I started reading age 2
I read at about 900 words a minute and have a freaky memory too where I seem to memorise useless crap (like estate agent phone numbers)
When I ran out of books Mum found me reading the Yellow Pages blush

I HAVE to read. I couldn't not

JethroTull Sat 05-Jan-13 20:39:07

Because it makes you think but it can also help you to stop thinking.
Reading definitely expands your vocabulary.
It helps to spark off new interests.
It can change your mind.
It stops you feeling lonely - when I was a student living in a foreign country I read so much, it made me feel happy finding a book in my own language.

cansu Sat 05-Jan-13 20:40:50

To destress, to calm down after a shitty day, to keep my mind off my worries, because I love it!

Reading does yes expand your vocab- also your decoding capabilities- excellent skill for learning languages! It's helped me a whole lot. People who say they're not good at languages- I wonder if they were intense readers during their childhood or not.

deleted203 Sat 05-Jan-13 20:44:50

Hooray! So many like minded people! I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees reading as being as essential as breathing. Brighthair you sound very like me - I read tremendously quickly, too and could happily read two or three books in a single sitting. I don't memorise phone numbers (completely discalcular I think), but I know all sorts of strange things, such as Pele's real name and the fact that bank robber John Dillinger played semi-professional baseball purely through reading about it.

There are some lovely answers on here!

As an Aspie I can't really easily get my head around the "essential as breathing" thing.....but I say YY to loving the random bits of info you pick up- though do have to be careful about not boring people with them- have any of you read "The Know it All"- like him!

I used to read the dictionary as a kiddy grin my degree is languages, and I still find using the dictionary so frustrating because I'm supposed to be using it for a single purpose, and all around there are so many delicious words to get distracted by.....

Roseformeplease Sat 05-Jan-13 20:54:28

Because I can't not read, it would be like not eating. I get scared and sort of ravenous when I don't have a book and, when I have a good one, I devour it.

brighthair Sat 05-Jan-13 21:00:10

I kept a diary for a year of every book I read, think I did 370 in a year blush
I definitely read without realising I'm doing it. Luckily I can use 4 local libraries and the lovely librarian removed the card limit so I can take as many as I like grin

coldethyl Sat 05-Jan-13 21:02:26

Like brighthair, I read because I can't bear not to. Right now, I don't have anything comfortable to read for amusement, alongside what I'm reading for information, but I still read old newspapers out of the composting drawer, backs of cereal packets, sets of instructions, DVD cases... will be returning to something old and well loved to read for comfort until I can get to the library.

Also, to channel the late, great, Mr Bill Hicks, I read 'because I don't want to end up a fucking waffle waitress'. It is the single greatest route to information and education, in my opinion.

brighthair Sat 05-Jan-13 21:04:30

I think a lot of it is down to my Mum but I was never "taught" as such
She used flash cards with me literally from 2 weeks old, read to me every day, decorated my room with letters and words and left me to it
I don't like being able to read like this, I won't read in public and it caused me nothing but problems at school sad

cinnamonnut Sat 05-Jan-13 21:05:06

Those I know who read do much better academically, in general, than those who don't. Even if they study science subjects.

lovelyladuree Sat 05-Jan-13 21:09:24

I cannot bear any fiction. I have read so much and so much of it is shite. Now I read history, art and antique books.

PrideOfChanur Sat 05-Jan-13 21:13:31

grin My first reaction was that that that is liking asking why do you breathe,or eat! I'm glad I'm not alone in that.

But: For entertainment,for escapism,to learn,to see life from a different viewpoint,to experience places/people/activities I am never going tio experience in RL, to stop my mind from grinding to a halt...

Reading quickly or slowly depends on the book,but I don't see why you'd need a gap between books (or how I would ever manage that myself)

I do think the escapism aspect has the potential to be problematic,and I've discussed with a friend how we know we are becoming overstressed if the reading becomes completely obsessive,but even if you are using it as an escape ,you are gettiing benefits from it.
I do think that is different from screens or games consoles - in my experience over use of screens leaves you feeling bleurgh and stale in a way that reading doesn't.

Really, cinnamon (hallo btw!)? I hated school/exams, did pretty poorly as a result and I read like a mad thing. I DO think the two are connected. I simply could not fit in, I was completely a square peg in a round hole. I don't think the current means of assessment in British schools, at least, really accommodates a lot of the qualities that reading might instill in you.....you still really have to become comfortable with the kind of thinking that the examiners look for. I think for some school systems, yeah, reading will really help you, but not necessarily this one. But then I have a bit of a bugbear there blush as you might be able to tell! ha

Actually, during the awful A level exam period last year I read a book or more a day during the runup- really helped me create a barrier between work and anything else, and disconnect. I spose that's probably escapism!

ouryve Sat 05-Jan-13 21:15:57

I stopped reading much for a long, long time. I have problems with the joints in my hands and have always struggled to hold a book open.

Then I got a Kindle grin

Now i read to relax, rather than just for information.

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.

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

to escape. to learn new things, to occupy my time when dp is watching god awful series on tv grin mostly to drift away with someone elses story rather than my own

ArkadyRose Sun 06-Jan-13 20:52:23

I read because I enjoy it. That's all that matters.

I read because I need to know.
Not anything in particular, I just need to know everything about everything, and if I don't get my library/bookshop fix I start reading small print/cereal boxes/subtitles etc.
Luckily I can call reading "work" as I am a storytellergrin

PrideOfChanur Sun 06-Jan-13 21:13:34

"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."

Which implies the perfect way to be is to be balanced,not too interested in any one thing,and to "live in the moment"
Not sure if that is true - and even if it is there isn't a lot I can do about it now.I am quite introverted and can only cope with so much "in the moment" before I just switch off! And I am often somewhere else in my head - but that applies whether I am reading or not. (So the being always slightly somewhere else,for me,leads to the reading - not the other way round)

iismum Sun 06-Jan-13 22:12:51

I've always been an obsessive reader. But since getting a smart phone a couple of years ago, my reading has switched more and more towards online stuff (mumsnet is a big part of that, but also Facebook, articles, etc). I sometimes find myself realising I've not picked up a book for a couple of weeks, which would have been inconceivable before my smart phone.

I'm really unhappy with this situation - I think I get far less out of this online reading, and also that it doesn't set a good example to my children. My main New Year's Resolution is to minimise online time and go back to my old book-reading habits (though am currently in bed posting to mumsnet on my phone rather than reading a book ...)

Skillbo Sun 06-Jan-13 22:28:44

interesting comment about non readers having happier lives... am currently having a pretty shit time of it and disappearing into a.book as soon as the dc are in bed is a huge solace for me! i think you can have a very happy life and still read but when you're unhappy, there really is nothing better than checking out for a few hours and forgetting your troubles!

Skillbo Sun 06-Jan-13 22:30:29

is of huge solace - still not mastered reading my posts before sending smile

carlywurly Sun 06-Jan-13 22:40:28

Bright hair, I was the same. I recently read about hyperlexia and I suspect i may have that. I was around 18 months when I first learned to read, and could apparently also read upside down!?

I remember when we did class reading together and were left to read 10 pages or so of whatever novel we were studying at the time. I'd have read that section dozens of times before the time was up. I could not understand how it took everyone else so long!

I find it a really useful skill these days - I can scan travel timetables instantly and fly through dull work documents.

Reading is the best thing ever, and libraries just amazing. Like a giant, free sweet shop to me smile

deleted203 Sun 06-Jan-13 22:44:06

Festive I, too, find I can't watch television and focus if there are words on the screen - I am busy reading the words. Subtitles drive me mad - and I loathe it if I am in somewhere that has a huge silent TV screen with subtitles as it constantly catches my eye and distracts me. I've sat in pubs, etc before with friends and really struggled with the conversation because there is a TV with subtitles that I find I'm reading. It drives me to insanity at my MIL because she has the news on, complete with subtitles, and I cannot listen because I'm reading the badly written rubbish they have up there that bears little resemblance often to what the person is actually saying.

deleted203 Sun 06-Jan-13 22:47:09

Does anyone else hate being read aloud to? I used to loathe it at school when you had to read around the class because I would be reading the book myself (at a much faster rate) and would have finished it many lessons earlier than the class. Listening to other 10 year olds stumbling their way through a paragraph of a book I'd already read was torturous. I still couldn't listen to an 'audio' book, however well read. I'd rather read it myself, rather than listen to Stephen Fry, or whoever else, read it TO me.

ArkadyRose Sun 06-Jan-13 22:52:57

sowornout I hate it. My late ex used to have this thing about reading to me and just couldn't understand that if I was interested in a story I'd far rather just read it by myself. Can't stand audiobooks either - they just turn into a background drone of noise I can't follow them at all. And group reading at school was sheer torture.

PavlovtheCat Sun 06-Jan-13 22:54:38

what you reading for?
so I don't end up a fucking waffle waitress.

Bill Hicks RIP.

PavlovtheCat Sun 06-Jan-13 22:55:10

I have always wanted to write that somewhere.

deleted203 Sun 06-Jan-13 23:08:29

Hooray Arkady. I'm not the only one. I don't like DH saying, 'listen to this....' and reading out a bit of his book. Recommend it to me by all means and if I'm interested I'll read it myself - don't keep reading random bits out to me - I can't follow it. I'm like you with the audio bit - I think it depends a lot on what type of 'learner' you are. And I am definitely someone who needs to read information. Kinaesthetic learners (most men!) like to be physically shown something like stripping a car engine down and then do it themselves. I can't follow this at all - but if you gave me the written instructions I could do it. Similarly I'm tone deaf, could never learn an instrument, and therefore find it hard to follow oral instructions or listen to someone reading. I need the words in front of my eyes to understand it.

VitoCorleone Sun 06-Jan-13 23:12:03

I usually tend to just read autobiographys, because im generally a nosy person.

elleephant Sun 06-Jan-13 23:18:11

When I was younger I read fiction avariously and intensly and I think I did so to figure out the adult world iykwim? All those complex emotional situations wholly absorbed for I'd say 15-20y.

Now I read mostly non-fiction, biographies and popular science/history mostly. V random. Also I find I don't really retain what I read now. Still read a lot though. It's more interesting than the telly ;)

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Mon 07-Jan-13 08:48:56

iismum*, I'm exactly the same - just put down my current book after 10 mins to check 'threads I'm on' and here I am smile.

Can't decide whether the attention reduced when I had children or whether I've let it dwindle through spending too much time online - it's so easy to flit around without ever truly concentrating on and absorbing what you're reading.

dinkystinky Mon 07-Jan-13 08:55:21

escapism, channeling my imagination, relaxation and information

I love reading and tear through books.

Bonsoir Mon 07-Jan-13 08:55:26

For escapism, I would always much rather watch a DVD than read fiction.

But I love to read to learn.

PurpleStorm Mon 07-Jan-13 09:02:34

Because I love readng.

I read usually very boring non-fiction for work. Sometimes I have to force myself to keep reading because it's so dull. Occassionally, I just can't keep going (some of it has actually put me to sleep). I tend to skim it all though (and read selectively, missing out all the really tedious sections entirely). My PhD thesis was actually about reading (a particular kind of literature).

I steal DS1's books and read them for leisure. I love a good bit of YA literature. I rarely read actual literary fiction (or anything intended for adults) and you could not pay me to wade through anything that could be referred to as 'chick lit'. Literary fiction is usually too much like hard work (I don't think it helps that cloud atlas is the last 'proper book' I tried to read; I made several attempts to keep going but I have admitted defeat and returned to teenagers in some kind of peril, which is what most of the books DS1 reads are about). I just have no interest whatsoever in 'chick lit'.

brighthair Mon 07-Jan-13 09:26:30

I definitely get the "reading without having to read"
I see a page not words and sentences so I can take in the page without moving my eyes. I often get asked "are you really reading that?" and accused of lying. Mainly at school but also by a friends Mum who fell out with my Mum over my reading

wordfactory Mon 07-Jan-13 09:39:37

For pleasure...

I delight in the story, the characters, the craft. Nothing explores what it is to be human more than literature.

achillea Wed 09-Jan-13 00:08:05

I didn't say "live in the moment" - implying impulsive actions - that's completely different from "being in the moment", which is more to do with how someone engages with you. See, you read too fast to read proper.

mercury7 Wed 09-Jan-13 01:49:44

I read because I love reading, if I have an especially good book on the go I am delighted, I spend a fair amount of time looking for books that I'll enjoy.

I rarely find fiction that I can really get into, so I mostly read non fiction.

mercury7 Wed 09-Jan-13 01:55:52

also I feel that by reading I can access the minds of clever people, people who have in depth knowledge of things I want to know about!

generally I prefer to read books than talk to people

MrsHoarder Wed 09-Jan-13 01:56:51

I read because its the best escapism. It allows me to leave worldly troubles behind in a way that may not be productive. But as a medium it is fairly unique in the way which it is possible to step back from it if it is too much, unlike say TV, where your mind can't filter details out and you can't look away and leave it instantly.

Also I think reading books leads to more personal growth than MN.

Thanks to this thread I have joined goodreads, anyone know how to add books it can't find? My "to read" pile is mostly international folk tales, it can't even find them from the ISBN!
Anyway, I love reading, and have mastered the art of reading whilst walking, using peripheral vision to see where I'm going.
Printed words have a way of lodging in my memory in a way spoken words cannot.

BunFagFreddie Wed 09-Jan-13 07:35:11

I must be a weirdo, but I'm always reading non fiction books to find out about nerdy things that interest me. Right now, I'm readining "Mysteries of the Cathedrals" by Fulcanelli. It's about the Hermetic symbolism in France's Gothic cathedrals.

I often have more than one book on the go, a couple are located in the bathrooms iykwim.

I just got a book from the library about building railways across America, returned a book investigating the theory of Arthur being a barbarian king, and I read a good one about the sewer systems of the world last year. My favourite non fiction in 2011 was about a lady who worked several minimum wage jobs to see what life on the bread line was really like. You are not alone!

amicissimma Wed 09-Jan-13 08:40:24

If you don't like being read to or audiobooks (and in general I don't) may I suggest you try Alan Bennet reading Winnie the Pooh or Bill Bryson reading one of his own? IMO, they are a (rare) perfect match of medium (voice) and content.

amicissimma Wed 09-Jan-13 08:43:40

Oh, InMySpareTime, what were the railways-in-America and minimum-wage-jobs books? I'm in need of some recommendations ATM, and they both sound interesting.

Apologies for hijack.

mercury7 Wed 09-Jan-13 11:29:30

was the minimum wage book by Barbara Ehrenreich?
She wrote a few others which I also enjoyed

Amicissima, "Measuring America" by Andro Linklater, and "Hard Work" by Polly Toynbee

amicissimma Wed 09-Jan-13 15:24:30

Thanks, InMySpareTime.

<Heads for Amazon library>

grumpyinthemorning Wed 09-Jan-13 15:37:31

I read to expand my outlook and my vocabulary, to escape to other worlds, to discover new ideas and reject or embrace them. I read for pleasure, for knowledge, to pass the time. I'll read anything I can get my hands on, and I do pretty much everything with one hand, the other holding a book (it's an acquired skill, perfected through years of practice).

Currently reading Alternative Femininities, between finishing the Twilight Saga and waiting for the next Game of Thrones book smile

fridgepants Wed 09-Jan-13 20:47:14

Learned to read at two, so I literally can't remember not having books around. I actually get a bit anxious if I'm on a train or something and realise I have nothing to read. I find it odd that someone would sit on public transport staring into space when they could be learning or entertaining themselves, but maybe they've learned to meditate smile

fridgepants Wed 09-Jan-13 20:48:22

susan Hill wrote a great book about a year she spent reading only the books in her house. Enjoyed it far more than The Child That Books Built.

fridgepants Wed 09-Jan-13 20:50:23

brighthair, are you me? smile My mum taught me in a similar way, which is even more impressive given that she really struggles with spelling herself.

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