Why do you read?

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I read every day.

I read:

  • Blog posts
  • Emails
  • Tweets
  • Articles
  • News reports
  • Notifications
  • Comments on blogs
  • Road signs
  • Menus
  • Labels on products
  • Receipts
  • Bills
  • Bank statements
  • Letters
  • Instructions

The list could go on …

At the moment my reading of full-length books is limited, though recently I read a novel (Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle by Geoff Le Pard) and a memoir (On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years after it Happened by Lori Schafer), both of which I read as ebooks. I also read a non-fiction paper book (Retiring with Attitude by Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell) and am part-way through a number of other non-fiction titles.

Most of the full-length book reading I currently do is in audiobook format. My in-car time on the way to work is usually from about 45-60 minutes and I use this time to listen to audiobooks. During the past year I have listened to quite a variety including both fiction and non-fiction. I particularly enjoy it when the author reads the book, as with my current “read” Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Michael Rosen.

Blog posts are probably my number one source of reading material at the moment. I read a variety of blogs; some about writing for writers, some about teaching for teachers, some with a variety of information about a range of subjects, lots about books! Picture books, young adult novels, fiction and non-fiction. I am always on the lookout for something new to read or to give as a gift for someone else to read.

I always enjoy Anne Goodwin’s reviews on her blog Annecdotal. Not all of the books that Anne reviews appeal to me, and few of them will I read. Last year I did read one of her suggestions (The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz) and we had quite a discussion about his chapter on praise. I also read Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature, that was recommended to me by Geoff Le Pard, and Stephen King’s On Writing that was recommended by Lisa Reiter.

Sometimes when I read reviews or think of all the wonderful books I could be reading, I chastise myself for the little “reading” I do. But then I remind myself that the reading I choose/need to do at the moment is different. One day soon I’ll be back to more fiction rather than informational texts.

I was reminded of this when I re-read an article written by Charlotte Zolotow and published in The Horn Book: Writing for the Very Young: An Emotional Déjà Vu.

In the article Zolotow says,

“I have so much left to read and reread and so little time left in which to do it that I want to select what fills my emotional needs — needs which are often different from, or unknown to, even my closest friends.”

Zolotow goes on to explain that

“It was not this way when I was an adolescent or in my middle years, when I had a wide, all encompassing, devouring, greedy desire to read everything. But if I think back, I do remember as a child wanting certain books over and over again and others not at all. Very young children, like older people, want to read or hear read books that help them sort out their own most acute needs, their own inquiries about life.”

I thought how true it is. Throughout life our reading habits and choices change. I have always been a reader. As a child and teenager I read fiction, and lots of it. Even as a young adult I continued to read fiction and poetry, but my reading of non-fiction, mainly but not exclusively to do with education, began to exceed those choices. At that time there were only paper books, and I loved them, thinking that nothing could come between me and my books.

How wrong I was and how times change. Now I read online, ebooks and audiobooks. There is a much greater variety of material available for readers and, I think, the demands are greater. In days gone by if you weren’t reading books you weren’t reading. Now the distinction is not so clear. Because I am not reading full-length paper books as frequently as before, I think of myself as a non-reader. But that is unfair and untrue. I spend most of my day reading, and when I am not reading, I am writing. But these days reading is a huge part of my writing. I am constantly researching and reading online to give extra credence or support to what I am writing.

What about you? How do you view yourself as a reader? Does one need to read books to be considered a reader?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

30 thoughts on “Why do you read?

  1. Christy Birmingham

    I love to read and also love reading about what other people are reading 🙂 I think to be a ‘reader’ includes more than books these days – there’s so much content to consume online! Blog posts, articles, news reports…. I love to read blog posts.

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  2. lorilschafer

    I do all of the same sorts of reading you do, and it has surprised me in the last couple of years how much I’ve come to enjoy reading blogs, for example, which I never bothered with before. However, I still need to read a whole book to feel as if I’m reading. I don’t know why – there’s just something about the length or the depth that is vital to the experience somehow. Everything else feels “casual” – it’s like the difference between attending a morning-long seminar and taking a semester-long class. Maybe I just need the time to really get into a subject, especially these days, when I read a lot of nonfiction. But I just don’t feel right unless I have a book going.

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  3. The Cold Texan

    You do a lot of reading!!

    I’m a big reader m’self, but I admit I’m a book snob. I was always taught that reading means reading books…..when i was a kid I had a big book of Garfield comics and whenever my mom would tell me to go to my room and read for a while that’s what I would pick up and then she’d come in and get on to me for it because comics are not proper reading material. And then she’d bring me one of the classics to read. Now that I’m older I would totally consider blog reading a valid source of reading and many of the other sources you mentioned.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your thoughts to the conversation. On a personal level I’d be agreeing with your mother about the comic books, but not necessarily the classics. I never did take to comics. I preferred the words to the pictures. On the other hand, as a teacher, I’d be encouraging children to read whatever it was that could turn them on to reading.
      I would love to be doing more “real” book reading, but it’s not where my path is taking me at the moment. And of course a lot of the reading material I listed is just what helps us get through the day. Often we don’t even realise we are reading; and it’s not what would be considered recreational or for pleasure. Although I didn’t say so explicitly, one thing I was hoping to show is how integral reading is to our daily activities and how disadvantaged non-readers are in our print-rich society.
      I appreciate your comment. 🙂

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  4. Bec

    Hi Nor and everyone down here in the below, thanks Nor for an interesting discussion and I have also enjoyed the comments (as always) too! I like Charli’s concept of ‘readers’ block’. I think I have experienced that one myself. At the moment I am struggling to get through the final hundred pages of the 10th book in a series which I have loved, though found the last 4 books underwhelming compared to the first 6. I am more motivated by the stack of books waiting for me once I’m finished rather than for reaching closure to the story.

    I also find I do a lot of reading across different ‘platforms’, but I certainly feel differently about the academic papers I read for “work” (though I do love the topic I’m researching – I am fortunate for this!) and the reading I do for pleasure. Even reading a few pages at a time of the ‘Womankind’ or ‘New Philosopher’ magazines which are on the coffee table is different from reading a chapter of a novel, and similarly reading a fictional novel is different from reading a treatise on ethical eating or whatever else which is for personal enjoyment but not offering some form of escapism. I am a very lucky person to have grown up with reading as such a prominent part of my life (thanks Nor!), but I do feel a bit ashamed at times at the moment when I’m more likely to pointlessly swipe around on my smart phone than I am to push through the book I’m struggling to finish.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Reader’s block is definitely an interesting concept. You have done well to push your way through four ‘underwhelming’ books of a series. How many more are there? I think I would have given up long before four. As you say, the stack of books waiting to be read is more enticing that actually completing one that is less than satisfactory.
      No need to feel guilty about swiping across your smart phone – sometimes the brain needs a bit of a diversion. I know mine does. It hurts these days if I do too much thinking! :0
      I’m so pleased to be able to share a love of reading with you. The ‘nurture’ doesn’t always work that way if it is not in the ‘nature’ in the first place.
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  5. writersideup

    I, like you, am constantly reading (and our lists are nearly identical), though reading (and writing) fiction, has a much different effect than all the other reading and writing we do. I LONG to be reading and writing more fiction than I do!

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  6. Pingback: Celebrate This Week: Personal Process and Paths | To Read To Write To Be

  7. TanGental

    Thank you for the mention, Norah. Bit like you Norah, I don’t read fiction as much as I’d like and when I do I get irritated with books that aren’t as good as I expect because I think I only have so many book left in me.

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s true too, Geoff. I’d need a few lifetimes to do all the reading I’d like to. Just as well there are lots of other readers to read the books that we don’t to make the writing worthwhile for the other authors! 🙂

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  8. Annecdotist

    Thanks for the mention in your gallery of things you read, Norah.
    While I think it’s great that we have this marvellous skill that enables us to connect with so much (standby for my review of a novel The Chimes where the written word has become obsolete) I do think reading fiction brings something different – although that might be merely my way of rationalising my obsession.
    I agree however that we need different things at different points in our lives. I probably had about ten years or so midcareer when I read very little fiction author, looking back, I could probably have squeezed more in if I’d watched less TV or something. I was reminded recently of how at university, after exams, I’d return my textbooks to the library and get a pile of novels from the English literature shelves. It felt really special because of the time I’d been absorbed in psychology.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion, Anne. Fiction definitely does add something different, something more to life. I think reading good fiction enables us to work through our understanding of and responses to situations and relationships in a non-threatening way. It helps us develop empathy for others, and discover who we are. Then again it can be just pure escapism and joy!
      I know what you mean about the pile of novels from the library. I used to borrow half a dozen books from the library each week. Not any more! 😦

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  9. Charli Mills

    After college I developed “readers block” and couldn’t finish a book for almost three years! Looking back, I also moved to a foreign land (Minnesota) went into the workforce full-time, had three active school-age children and maintained my freelancing. Work and freelancing required a lot of periodical materials and report readings, but I had this horrible notion that if I wasn’t reading a book, I wasn’t reading. I got over that hump in life, and although I no longer read books as voraciously as I once did, I do read. I read blogs, of course, and self-education materials to learn about the book industry, and I enjoy reading books written by authors I’ve met online. In fact, I think it’s revived my book reading because I’m reading genres I might not have read on my own. My eldest and her husband read out-loud to each other every day and because I have stayed with them for extended times, I often got interested in the books the were reading. They got me hooked on a 14 book series! I’m on book 8…a ways to go and then they tell me they have another series for me. Ironic that my children now see to it that I read books! Thought-provoking post, Norah!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Charli. Our reading habits definitely change with our changing lifestyle and interests.
      I was interested to hear that your daughter and her husband read out loud to each other. I have heard of others who do that too. What a wonderful practice. It must be as good for the relationship as it is for the mind and soul.
      I can’t imagine embarking on a 14 book journey! And you are already at book 8! It must be a great series.
      My young people also recommend books/articles/magazines for me to read. It is lovely to share the joy around!
      Thank you for joining in to share also. 🙂

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  10. macjam47

    Yes, I read all of the above, too. Mostly these days, I am reading mostly fiction and blog posts. Oh, and email, tons and tons of email hit my box everyday. It seems that when I run across an interesting blog or a great author, I can’t help but subscribe via email. I can’t neglect to mention the texts I receive from sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, siblings, and nieces and friends. It seems that in today’s world one can’t get away from reading. Even self-professed “non-readers” read something every day.

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    1. Norah Post author

      How could I have forgotten texts! I didn’t list picture books either, and I enjoy reading those when the grandkids are over. I know what you mean about an inbox full of email notifications of blog posts! There’s just not enough time in the day to read everything!
      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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  11. Sarah Brentyn

    I was just telling my husband how sad it was that I read more blog posts, articles, and emails than I do books lately. It’s not sad, I guess. It’s still reading, you’re right, but I would love to get back to my regularly scheduled reading routine. I miss it so much. I have been reading a lot of nonfiction, too. I can pick those up, highlight, mark passages, put it down, and not use up huge chunks of time. (Stephen King’s “On Writing” is fantastic, BTW.)

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    1. Norah Post author

      It’s interesting how our reading ‘habits’ change with changes in our lifestyle and interests. I know when my daughter was born I was looking forward to having more time for reading fiction. That time didn’t eventuate though, mainly because I chose to do other things, like playing with her and reading to her.
      I’m glad you enjoyed Stephen King’s “On Writing”. I absolutely loved it too. Have you read any of his novels?I haven’t. They’re a bit too horrific for me! I don’t watch the movies either. 🙂

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        Yes, my lifestyle right now dictates what / how I read. Hope to have more time soon(ish).

        Stephen King. Yes, well. I used to read (many moons ago) his books as well as Dean Koontz and John Saul. I don’t read any of them anymore. I don’t know how I ever did. I still remember the horror movies I used to watch. I don’t watch any now. And, even when I did, they were more psychological thriller-type horror. Except King’s “Carrie”.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I haven’t read any Dean Koontz or John Saul. Are they horror/psychological thriller also? When I was much much younger i did read “The Exorcist” but it scared me silly, even when I was reading it in the middle of the day. Haven’t gone that road again. However I don’t mind a little dark occasionally, like Roald Dahl’s short stories. 🙂

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