I think it's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love books. I have books tattooed on my wrist for crying out loud. I have hundreds upon hundreds of books in my home. Practically every room houses books somewhere. But why? Why do I love them so much? What is it about bound pieces of paper with patterns of black marks on them that makes me so happy? I will explore that in this post.
- Learning - To make myself feel better about the purely hedonistic tone of this post, I will start with one of the more noble of my reasons. I learn best through reading. And I like to learn new things. And not just facts. Ideas and perspectives and life-stories. That's all learning. Learning makes me feel alive. When my life is at its most stagnant, learning makes me feel like I'm in motion.
2. Escape - And now we get to the most used reason I read. Reading takes me out of whatever awfulness is happening in my real life. Teenagers with teenager-y problems? Read a book (preferably not one about teens). Money not lasting long enough? Read a book. Work stress getting you down? Read. When I've just spent a day peopling and I need to hibernate, a book lets me do that even when there are still people around me.
3. Better Than TV - Lately (and by lately I mean the last 15 years or so) I haven't found much on television that I want to watch. With a book, I can control the content of the media that is entering my brain. With the TV, I'm limited to what I can find on air. And best of all, books don't include commercial breaks that are 5 times louder than the show.
4. Books Smell Good - This might be the most shallow reason on this list, but the smell of a book instantly lowers my blood pressure. At one point in time, I could recognize a book's publisher by the smell of the glue and the paper.
5. Making Friends - Getting sucked into a good book is like making friends with the characters. You get to know them. You can hear their voices. You know what they would say in any given situation. When you're reading the book, it's like hanging out with old friends.
6. Challenging Perspectives - I like to think I'm open-minded and progressive, but that doesn't mean I can't learn and grow and change. I love to read something I disagree with, if only to see how someone else sees a situation. Even if I don't agree with the viewpoint I'm reading about, I can learn about how someone else thinks.
7. More Empathetic - This goes along with challenging perspectives. If I can see something from another perspective, I can be more empathetic to the situations they may find themselves in. Even if I can see how they put themselves there with their own decisions, I can feel empathy with their problems. I probably won't stop being judgmental, but I can maybe feel for them.
8. Brain Health - I am desperately fighting to keep my brain active and learning in the hopes of staving off the dementia which appears to run rampant in my family. Reading helps. So does Sudoku and Crosswords, etc. It might be a losing battle, but at least it's fun to fight this one.
9. Modeling Behavior - My kids are grown now, and maybe past the age of being influenced by my behavior, but it's been a thing I've done for their whole lives. I've read studies that dads reading have more influence that way than moms but it can't be nothing. I also figure, when people ask me, "How do you read so much?" I can point out all the times I read instead of watch TV, or clean house, or sleep. Ok, so maybe not great modeling, but it's a start.
10. Stress Reducer/Mental Health Stabilizer - I've already talked about how reading can be an escape. That escape leads to my blood pressure going down, getting my mind off my current problems, etc. But also, if I read something directly related to what's on my mind, I can think about it logically; I can put things in order and tackle them that way. This often means I read whole pages of the book without taking any of it in, but I've gotten closer to a solution for my issues. Also, when I'm in a bad mood, a good book can pull me out of it. I can be ready to handle people again.
11. Build Vocabulary - I already have a pretty hefty vocabulary, but I do still run across words I don't know. I go look them up immediately and then go back with that new information and read the sentence again. It does take me several times seeing a word before I can remember what it means, and obscure words don't actually run across my path very often, but it's a place to begin understanding what I'm reading at least.
12. Improve Analytical Skills - I am terrible at analyzing what I'm reading. Metaphors usually go right over my head. I've never been great at picking out the theme of a book. I would have made a terrible English major. I try to practice these things sometimes. I got a book on analysis, and apparently it was something I do naturally as I read. But Close Reading I'm not so good at.
13. Improve focus - Living as we do in this world of 140 character tweets and Facebook posts we don't read unless there's a picture, I found my ability to focus for long periods of time waning. I have an app on my phone where you plant a tree by leaving your phone alone for a set amount of time. If you use your phone in that time, the tree dies. This helps me remember that that text or email can wait. Sometimes, I have to put my phone way far away in another room or under a pillow so I can't see it light up when something comes in. Getting into a good book is a way I practice lengthening my focus time. As a mom, I still get interrupted by family and pets regularly, but I can practice some.
14. Connect With Other Readers - Even if I don't read the same things as another reader, we can still connect over the love of books. My book club is one of my favorite things to do, because we don't just talk about the book club book. We talk about other things we've read and other just life things. We came together because of books, and we're friends beyond that as well.
I'm sure there are more reasons people love to read. What are yours?