Why I Read, Part 2
The second answer is short: because I’m hungry.
I could respond to the Why do you read? question with Why do you eat?
I’m hungry to know, hungry to discover, hungry to learn. Hungry for story, hungry for wordsmithery, hungry for surprise. I’m hungry to see, hungry to really see my world, your world, their world over there. I thirst for books that establish my roots and for books that bend my thoughts. I don’t mind books that give me a needed smack-down. I want to laugh, I want my throat to constrict, I want to gasp, to nod, to stop reading and ponder. I want to recognize, to reform, and I dearly want to remember.
In my mind, I often classify my current read by a food equivalent. This is butternut soup: light, but nourishing. This is chocolate torte: rich and sweet. This is steel cut oats: not very exciting, but it gets the job done. This is burnt garlic: yuck! This is a cup of tea and a sit-down. This is an omelet: satisfying protein. This is flour and water: half-baked! This is a glorious main-dish salad: it took some time and effort, but so worth it.
A confession: I love cotton candy. It’s pure sugar, I know, but those yummy sticky pink wisps whisper joy, joy, joy…—until they are suddenly thoroughly revolting. Shoved in the garbage. You know that kind of book? Mediocre writing, but a catchy storyline. If you finish, you feel filmy and regret the hours you just wasted. I don’t like retching; better to avoid wretched things, even when they appear so seductively lovely.
There is a time for easy reading (fast food), reading magazines or online articles (snacks), and escape reading (ice cam from the carton). I have a few favorite comfort books, all British, which I admit are in the suburbs of sentimental. Excellent books for children are my first choice when fatigue and grief confound me.
This is a great post! Reading is overlooked by too many people, and it has so many benefits. I can relate to when you said that you thirst for books that bend my thoughts, and want to stop reading and ponder.
I really enjoy nonfiction because it allows me to learn the lessons that successful people learned the hard way from the comfort of where ever I might be reading. Which is a lot like what you said that you are looking for in books.
If you are interested in the nonfiction I have been reading, please stop by my page. I post book reviews over biographies, classics, and inspiring nonfiction.
Thanks, Tyler! I will!
I love your comments about reading and the picture of bedside book shelf! Those books look so interesting but I can’t read all the titles – could you, perhaps, post a list of which books are there on your shelf??
Thanks, again, for passing along your thoughts!
Cathy in Chicago
How can I resist your request, Cathy in Chicago?! (I grew up in Lombard, btw)
Obviously, I was intentionally reading essays in 2011!!
From left to right:
Theophilos, A Novel by Michael O’Brien (alas, still unread; I like his other books)
The Bridge on the Drina, Ivo Andric (novel about Bosnia)
As I Was Saying, A Chesterton Reader (snippets of G.K. Chesterton)
The Way We Are, Margaret Visser (essays about commonplace objects)
The Wisdom of Tenderness, Brennan Manning
The Widow of the South, Robert Hicks (a novel about the Battle of Franklin)
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (Paris + memoir + piano = yes!)
The Rector of Justin (novel about boys school; mostly OK, good in some parts)
How Proust Can Change Your Life (Alain de Botton) quirky subject & author
A Week at the Airport (de Botton again) fun macro-history
Small Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver (book of essays re: various subjects)
The Invisible Child, Katherine Paterson (memoir from writer of kidlit)
A Passion for Books (collection of stories, quotes, cartoons ab/ bibliophiles)
The Art of the Commonplace, Wendell Berry (book of agrarian essays)
Coming Apart, Coming Together (History of the 20th century)
Yes, I’ve read fluff, and you’re right, after awhile it catches up to you. Thanks for sharing your shelf with us; I see The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. I enjoyed that one!
Several of these books remain on my shelf, unread! 🙂
My son asked how he could explain to a class of bored high schoolers why literature is important. I would love to print this off and have him read it—first to bolster his own beliefs and then to put it in such a visceral (is that the word I want?) manner to his students.
Have at it!