We all know that reading and writing go together like peanut butter and bananas (in case you hadn’t picked up on it from earlier posts, I’m an Elvis fan) and that the two activities are inextricably linked. Reading comes first, though, doesn’t it? You have to know how to read before you can write with meaning. We write because we read, in other words.
Given all the competition for our attention these days (endless cable channels and Wiis and iTunes), it feels like reading is becoming more of a choice than an absolute necessity. Which, of course, is part of the problem the publishing business is facing. Why read when you can waste time playing Angry Birds on your iPhone? Why read when you can go to a movie? Or make small talk on Facebook? Why read when you can spend hours downloading useless apps for your iPad?
Reading is solitary. It can be intellectually taxing. It makes you flex numerous muscles including your imagination. It is a singularly subjective experience (all of us have faced the disappointment of sharing a book we love with someone only to hear them opine that it’s just okay or, worse, pan it outright). It entails a time commitment of hours, days, sometimes weeks. And in some circles, it can even get you labeled a nerd. So, why do we do it?
Personally, I’m a huge fan of film and tv (I have strong couch potato tendencies) and I thoroughly embrace each new technology that delivers information and entertainment more quickly and easily to me. But, none of it compares to the thrill I get when flipping open a book to the first page. There is something so intimate and special about entering an author’s mind and the universe she or he has created especially for me, knowing that for the duration of my stay in that universe, I will enjoy a deliciously private experience. I won’t have to compete against the highest score on a video game. I won’t have to laugh at the same punchlines my neighbor with the supersized popcorn bin finds hysterical. I won’t have to do anything, in short, but allow the story and my imagination to carry me where they will.
I read for knowledge, for comfort, to relieve boredom, to make sense of the world and to be entertained, surprised, sometimes awed. Why do you read when you have so many other pastimes to choose from?