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Why do we like reading?

Why the hell do we like reading.

I certainly can't figure out the answer for the rest of you, so I'm going to have to puzzle through my own reasons. Is it the craving for narrative? But film answers that so well, and it's so much more passive. Mmm, passivity.

Most people who classify themselves as 'readers' seem to have been that way since they were little inchworms. I have very few memories of early experiences with books and reading. One of the earliest I can remember was a stunning bluff I put to my brother as I arrogantly proclaimed "I can read that," regarding the cover of a National Geographic -- a bluff that was swiftly brought to its reckoning by my brother's clever "What does it say then?" riposte.

Other than that, my next memory is already being able to read, sitting in my parents' ridiculously big Whirlpool tub (I've always been a small person, and the jets used to be able to push me in a big circle around the tub, rendering it the funnest place on earth) and having my mother read to me from Meet Felicity, the very first in the American Girl series, back when it used to be about history. *grumbles*

Why don't people understand that history is just better?
Look at his hat.

My mother's devious plan was to read aloud to me and then leave off at an exciting part so I'd finish it on my own. Why she felt the need to con me into reading, I'm not sure. Maybe I was being stubborn about it at that point. But it worked. (and Felicity will forever be the best American Girl; I don't want to hear jack shit about Samantha)

When you're young, it has to be pretty solely about narrative, right? I loved dogs, so I read Shiloh and Daughter of the Mountains (THIS IS THE BEST BOOK) and Ribsy. Then I loved horses, so it was Black Beauty and the Thoroughbred series and The Forgotten Filly and ALL THE MARGUERITE HENRY BOOKS.


You get older and you start reading about people. Usually people you can relate to. Then you get even older and you start realizing that books can be used to explore the mindsets of people you CAN'T relate to, and that if you don't encounter these people in your daily life, you can read the thoughts they put to paper and broaden your entire scope of life and how the world works. Without books, your life and its outlook can be dangerously limiting and narrow.

I read books for entertainment still, because why quit that, but I've also come to rely on them for help in understanding other people. One of the hardest trials of everyday life is the idea of "honoring everyone." Everyone? Really? Because some people really don't seem like they deserve to be honored. But the more you read and see lives of people other than your own and those whom it's easy to love, the easier it becomes to understand them. And then that person who seems so irredeemable can start to go from a two-dimensional bad guy to a complex individual with a long history of living and many good and bad decisions that have led them to their present point. And then maybe it's easier to cut them a little slack.

Let's end with the best quote from The Thirteenth Tale:

“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in the ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.” 


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