Why I Read

A woman reading under a tree

We are a storytelling species. We are in the age of “Peak TV“. People are driving and jogging while listening to audio books. But my favorite way to engage with story is still the good, old-fashioned book. Or more often these days, an ebook. In short text read line by line. Not watched nor listened to. Read.

As a child I loved libraries. My favorite people in elementary school were the librarians. As a teen I walked to the library to comb through the card catalog (remember those?) to find my next read. When I became an adult I continued to visit the library to borrow books while also building quite a large library of physical books. While today my physical library is much smaller, I still use the library to borrow ebooks as well as buy new ones regularly.

And I read all genres. Literature. Science fiction. Fantasy. Memoir. Biography. History. Science. Psychology. Philosophy. Recently I began to wonder, why is reading so important to me? I have so many other choices for learning and entertainment. Why reading? I’m still working on a full answer to that question, but here are some of my preliminary thoughts.

Reading is slow. Or maybe it’s more that it happens at my own pace. Watching and listening happen at a predetermined pace. Sure I can sometimes speed it up, but for me that degrades the experience. The fact that I can easily reread a passage to clarify is part of what I love about reading. And I can read at whatever pace suits me.

Reading is broader and deeper. I have never heard of a movie that had more story than the book it was based on. Books also go to much more depth as they aren’t limited by a two hour running time. It is also easier to access the thoughts of characters in a book.

Reading is low tech. I don’t need any special tools to read a book. I can sit under a tree on a sunny day and escape to another world or learn life lesson’s from someone long dead. Even with an ebook, my ereader only needs to be charged once or twice a month, and it doesn’t do anything but let me read ebooks.

Reading is old and reliable. Books have been around for thousands of years. And books written that long ago are still accessible. I don’t need a special program to run them or read them.

But most of all, books and reading transport me to other worlds. They allow me to live vicariously through others, both real and imagined. And when I am done or take a break, I return to my real life having learned and grown in sometimes unseen ways. This is true magic that I cannot imagine living without.