Why Do You Read?

Today’s post is going to be a little different because it’s assignment week here for me so everything’s due and I’m busy staring at the calendar, desperately wondering where all my time went.

Accordingly, this post is about me asking for your help.

For one of my assignments, I’m writing a piece about how and why people read. Sounds boring and obvious. But, until recently, I always believed that people read for the same reason I do.  To me, books are friends. Rereading a book is like visiting an old friend and having a good chin-wag with them. By contrast, reading a new book is like making a new acquaintance; the potential’s there for a long friendship with them but you’re not quite sure ’til you’ve finished the conversation.

Naively, I thought this was true for everyone. That is, until I had a fascinating conversation with one of the ladies I work with about how she never rereads books because there’s simply too much out there to read something you’ve already read. I was absolutely gobsmacked. Seriously, it was like my entire world view got turned on its head.

But that got me thinking. Why do people read. Is it just for entertainment? To learn things? Some people only ever read non-fiction. Why is that? Or what about people who read so they can discuss the story with their friends in the same way they might discuss a television show? Is social reading a thing? Is that just teenagers who are obsessed with Twilight and The Hunger Games?

I’m dying to know.

So tell me, please. What do you read? How? Why? Even if you simply read for entertainment, what kind of entertainment are you looking for?

C’mon guys. For SCIENCE

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About Meg Laverick

I can never be found without a cup of tea in my hand or a notebook in my bag. In between university and generally being awesome I read, write and nerd (that's a verb, right?). I also like analysing things that are probably best left alone.
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28 Responses to Why Do You Read?

  1. JuliansGIrl says:

    I’ve never really thought about it before! I guess I read so I can escape what’s going on in my daily life and get a little bit lost in the worlds of others. You know I’m also a fan of the non-fiction (*cough*military history*cough*) and I guess that’s because I like to be amazed at the absolutely, riddiculously amazing things that people achieve. Humans are amazing animals!! There’s also the element of having something to make small talk with strangers, seeing as how I can’t talk about work! Hahaha.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      It’s not really something that you think about that much, is it? I know I had to think about it when I was trying to put it into words for this. Thanks so much for giving it a bit of thought and letting me know 🙂

  2. Danielle says:

    I think I read mostly for entertainment, so I’m always looking for new books to read. Despite that, I still have my favourites that I’ll go back and read every now and then – especially my Anne Bishop books 😀 purely because I love the characters, and I just can’t get enough of their world and their stories. I tend to stick to fiction, because it’s nice to escape into someone else’s world for a while…

    • Meg Laverick says:

      But that’s because Anne Bishop is amazing. Have you seen that there’s a new-ish Ephemera book out? I haven’t read it yet but I did do a happy dance when I saw it.

      Thanks so much for letting me know about your reading!

  3. Lainy Wolf says:

    Escapism. I read to escape into another universe. Escape into my mind a live some exciting adventure in my imagination :3

    And that sounded emo. I’m not escaping anything bad (well, unless you call uni bad). I just like being in my imagination. Life is more interesting in my head.

    Coincidently, the same reason I write.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      It’s interesting that so many people are citing escapism as their reason for reading, don’t you think? When I was brainstorming ideas for my article I didn’t even think of that one.

      And you don’t sound emo. Just normal 🙂

      P.S. Happy birthday for a few weeks ago! I realised a few days afterwards that I’d missed it and I was sad and very very guilty.

      • Lainy Wolf says:

        I noticed that after i posted my reply XD we’re all mostly the same. Like you though, i thought that’s why most people read.

        Jake said that he reads for enjoyment or out of boredom. I saw that answer coming a mile a way. I had thought about something else the other day but it has disappeared. I read non-fiction because i’m eager to learn – as long as i don’t have to read it for an assignment or uni course. Strange how i you don’t want to read something because you have to.

        Ha ha, don’t worry about it at all 🙂 i don’t expect anyone to remember my birthday on Mothers Day.

        I’m in Darwin visiting at the moment. I’ve bought Divergent and Insurgent for the plane home and the two hour wait for the bus. That was a bit journey to find those books. Very popular XD I’m hoping Jake will finish the first book before tomorrow. He’s just over half way so should be ok. ha ha

  4. I read for entertainment when I want a temporary escape from reality. I read some educational books to learn new skills. Sometimes I read books about famous incidents (like the Titanic sinking or the Triangle fire) to understand what happened and why. I don’t often read a biography or autobiography unless it intrigues me — there should be a good story about that person became famous.

  5. Reblogged this on thebookshackblog and commented:
    Love this…Unique

  6. I read to understand who I am, and to explore other options of how to be. I read to be entertained, moved, delighted, thrilled, scared, and shown alternatives to the daily mundane. I read because storytelling is the world’s best and most reliable form of magic, and I want to feel that magic.

  7. suefen says:

    Like the others, one of my reasons for reading is to escape the everyday world and all of the stress, decisions and challenges that go with it. I have my favorite books that I will always return to at one time or another, but I love exploring new authors to see what they have to offer. If I can’t easily crawl inside the world the author has created, I have no problem putting that book aside without finishing it, because there is always someone else waiting to be read. I also read to educate myself. The best way to expand our minds and see new perspectives is through the written word.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      Thanks so much for letting me know! I know what you mean about putting books aside if they don’t grab you. Unless I’m reading a book for a specific purpose, they get 100 pages to get me before I’ll put them down and move on.

  8. Similar to others, I read for escapism and entertainment purposes also. But I find recently I read a lot of things for inspiration and education purposes: I study the style and voice of writers, trying to figure out what makes their book so unique to them.
    The only social reading I do is with the “big phenomenon” books, such as Hunger Games or Twilight, because as a big reader I want to be able to give my two cents in conversations, and working at a bookstore kind of requires me to possess that knowledge.
    I don’t re-read often, because I always have at least an entire shelf of un-read books to get stuck into, and an even bigger list of ‘classics’ and ‘interesting reads’ to get to as well. If I do re-read books, it tends to be during the summer holidays, and it tends to be after quite a few years so that the story is almost completely new to me again. I have a terrible memory for plots and stories, so it’s something I would like to be able to do regularly for all my favourites (so that I feel I can continue to actually call them my favourites!), but I do tend to opt for a new read, simply because there are so many out there that have caught my interest.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      Amen to having a pile of books that you need to read. I’ve got a bookcase full of books that I’ve picked up thinking that they might be interesting and that I still haven’t got around to reading.

      I like that you read those big phenomena books so you can have an opinion about them! It sounds like something I’d do. Currently, I’m waiting on a copy of Shades of Grey from a friend both because I want to know what the fuss is about and also so I can chat about them at work (high five for bookstore workage, btw. It’s great, isn’t it?)

      Anyways, thanks for stopping by and letting me know!

  9. phoenixandtiger says:

    I never actually thought about why I read….
    I think it’s so I can escape from my own life. My life is boring in comparison to everything else that people’s imaginations can come up with, so I read to access that other universe that’s out there. I also read to learn. That makes me sound like the biggest nerd ever, but I do pick up the occasional nonfiction and read it just so I can know more about this one thing. (for example – right now I’m reading a book about analysing handwriting. It’s not for school. It’s not because someone’s paying me. I actually like learning about this stuff).
    However…
    I read fanfiction so I can explore the original world more. So I can connect with the characters, to answer questions, to ask more questions. Not so much to escape my life.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      I pick up random non fiction books all the time just to find out about whatever interests me at the time (My best friend -still- likes to remind me about the time she found my book about sex slavery floating around in my library. I stand by the fact that it’s a fascinating, if horrifying, subject). So it’s maybe a little nerdy but also awesome, so there’s that at least 🙂 What have you learned about analysing handwriting?

      Thanks for letting me know why you read.

  10. Rachel says:

    *raises hand* I am guilty – my name is Rachel and I heart Twilight and The Hunger Games.

    Honestly, like you, Meg, I read because books are my friends. (As they say in finding nemo Fish are our friends….and yes say in Aussie accents too :-P). For me it is an escape. I also don’t re-read very often but thats because I generally read heaps about a book after i read it. I’m currently on a contemporary YA kick but i’m also planning to read some classics this break as well.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      There’s nothing shameful about liking The Hunger Games. those books were awesome! I don’t mind Twilight, really. They’re not great literature by a long shot, but they’re fine for what they are and they got teenage girls to think that reading is cool again so I’m in on that.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks of books as friends 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  11. subtlekate says:

    I read because it’s a comfortable, familiar thing to me. It was a real saviour as a kid and it’s carried me through. I read because it’s entertaining and instructional, but mostly, it’s comforting.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      That’s fascinating. Reading was also a big saving thing for me as a kid as well though I’ve never thought of it as a pure comfort thing. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Mhazie says:

    I don’t know the answer to this. o0 I read …because it’s interesting, I suppose. It’s my favourite way to pass the time. I tend to only reread books if I haven’t read them for long enough that although I still remember points A, B and C in the plot, I don’t remember how they got there. Otherwise I end up scan-reading. New books make my brain itch I MUST READ THEM NOW! WHY CAN I NOT READ THEM YET? (This happens when Mum buys me new books from charity shops for the holidays and I’m not allowed to read themmmmmm! *whines*)

    Hope that helps at all.

    I have an exam in an hour and a half. Fml.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      Haha. I have the same reaction when I get new books home. If it’s a particularly good one my whole life will get put on hold while I read.

      I hope your exam went well and thanks for taking out some valuable study time to answer.

  13. I have so many answers to such a simple question, but that’s not very useful for a class assignment, so I picked the one that’s most important for today. The biggest one, I think, is to see and understand works of art; to examine the emotions that a good story evokes in me and figure out just how the writer did that trick. I’m a writer myself, but I tend to do this with all of the media that I enjoy, from music to movies. I think it’s just how I’m wired.

    • Meg Laverick says:

      It is a deceptively simple question, isn’t it? Thanks for taking the time to think about it.

      I also like picking at stories (in whatever form they come in) to try to work out what makes them do the thing they do. I like learning all the tricks that people use to create whatever effect they’re going for.

  14. Hammer says:

    I get completely immersed in fiction – that, I read to be entertained. I also read a LOT of non-fiction to expand my knowledge.

    I don’t normally reread fiction. Since I know the whole story it really wouldn’t be so entertaining the second time. However, I did make one exception to this when rereading a Jack L. Chalker series that I had first discovered 30 years prior. That exercise turned out to be well worth it, so perhaps I’ll have to reevaluate my policy 😉

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