“Why do you read so much?”
I get this question a lot, or some form of it anyway, and I was asked this again recently. Of course, you can look through this blog and know that I don’t really have an easy answer for anything. So what comes out is usually, “I just like to read,” but that isn’t my real answer.
I enjoy reading. (I mean everything. Try walking into a men’s restroom holding a book entitled To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before written in huge font across the cover. If that doesn’t make you comfortable with your sexuality, I don’t know what will.) Even the stuff that I bitch and complain about reading, I read it anyway (poetry…). When I was little I remember sitting at the kitchen table eating cereal and reading the cereal box. There was only so much to read until you got to the nutrition table and so I read that too. When I would sit in the bath tub, I would read the shampoo bottles. (Some of them have really interesting business origin stories, you should read a few.)
I’ve always liked reading, and my mom taught me to read basic stuff before I started school. Her and my grandmother got me all sorts of subscriptions to magazines like NatGeo, Time, and even Reader’s Digest. I even had a couple of encyclopedia sets all to myself. Of course I also grew up on stuff like Goosebumps, Captain Underpants, and Harry Potter too.
So reading was always accessible to me. I never wanted for a book, and if I did, it was because I was at the Scholastic Book Fair or in the book bus (anyone remember that?) with my mom and wanted everything. That is part of the reason why I love reading.
The other part is more that I simply love books… physical books. This ties a lot into why I choose to use film for my photography instead of digital. You can read about that here: Shooting Film. I just love the old school feel of having art in my hands. Digital is just too perfect, too convenient, and that doesn’t properly portray the world around us. Nature is imperfect, chaotic, and definitely not easy to handle. But it is beautiful for its complexity. Books, like film photography, are the same way. I enjoy reading on my tablet, I enjoy using my digital cameras, but it’s too easy, too abstract. All the little imperfections of an analogue format make it that much more special and real. We are, by our very nature, seeking perfection as imperfect beings, so when we are presented with something close to perfection, what do we do then?
Lately I have heard the term “hipster” thrown at those who choose analogue over digital formats now, especially in the film community. I will concede that there are many out there doing it as a kind of fad, but there are many others who either, like me, grew up during that weird transition from analog to digital, or are seeking an escape from their screens. To the latter, I welcome you.
Again, there is so much that I love about digital. Ease of use being chief among them, but for everything I love about digital, I hate about it too.
But I digress.
I love reading for escapism. My favorite time to read is when I am terribly sick. It doesn’t happen much now, but when I was little I was sick a lot, and there was nothing like having a huge blanket thrown around me and a nice long book to get lost in. There is so much to explore in the world of books. Nothing is off limits with a book. I will put it like so: Have you ever had an amazing dream that, once you wake up, you just really want to go back to? That is exactly what happens every time you get into a good book.
Lastly, I find it to be my duty to read. Battles were fought for literacy. Wars were won and lost because of literacy. Reading is one of the most powerful tools we have as human beings, and yet we take for granted the skill, nay the right, to read in the modern era. People died for the right to read. They died for the right to teach their children, who taught you, how to read.
Last month or so I was getting my car washed and I saw a bumper sticker in the store that said, “Reading is overrated.” I cannot begin to explain how offended I was at that. We are the only species on this earth who can speak to other members of our race after we die, and someone thought to make a bumper sticker saying that skill is overrated?
I get it. Reading has a lot of drawbacks. In school if you didn’t read well you were picked on or given bad grades. As an adult you feel that you don’t have much time. Picking up an 800 page book is risky because you don’t want to get half way through and realize that you hate it. But reading is something that makes you human. Forget if you read slow. For all the reading I do, I read slower than most people, but I retain more information too. And as for the time commitments, I say reading two pages a day, a chapter a day, is not only doable for even the busiest of people, but will also make you want to read more.
So, “Why do you read so much?”
This is my answer. I wish I could say all this to the next person who asks but, inevitably, I will probably say, “I just like to read.”
P.S. If you made it this far, please let me know that you stopped by in the fashion of a comment below. (Except my family, I know you guys read this! Go away! Just kidding. Maybe.) Or, if you came across this on Facebook, let me know what you thought there too. I do think that it helps my website when I get comments on it, but Facebook is probably easier. Also, I am bad about posting regularly, my last post was in September, but do consider checking out my past blogs, sharing with friends, and stopping by from time to time. (I am not sure if I have a mailing list set up but maybe I will look into enabling that.) Thanks!