It’s hard to comprehend what I’m about to share, but I know people who don’t own books. They don’t read. Their shelves and tabletops have framed photos or trinkets and even CD’s, but no books. I’m not referring just to fiction or non-fiction, I mean no books of any kind.
When I asked why they didn’t own any books the answer was they had to read "required" books for school or work so in their "down" time they preferred doing something else. If they wanted to read something, they could find it online. One person actually admitted he didn’t like to read; he was happy to wait for the DVD of a popular book.
It’s hard for me to imagine not reading.
I used to keep every book I ever read, but when I moved I vowed to break that habit. My plan worked for a while–library books and my Kindle helped–but old habits die hard. Once again books are multiplying like rabbits in my house.
I love to read—it’s as natural as breathing. It’s hard to pinpoint why. Books change me, usually for the better. Reading improves my language and vocabulary. Words paint mental pictures allowing me to flesh out characters and scenes and make them mine. I read to learn new things and gain perspective and understanding. Reading transports me to worlds apart from the one I live in every day. It’s like being on vacation. In a few paragraphs I might be exploring the culture and history of an exotic place like Spain, China or Istanbul, or vicariously experiencing a romantic relationship.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, "We read to know we are not alone."
I’m picky about my reading choices. Abandoning a book that doesn’t capture my interest is not a problem for me. I used to think a started book had to be finished, but there are too many books to ever read in a lifetime, why waste time on ones I don’t like? I tend to read the first few sentences and make a judgment—yes or no. Yes, there have been books (book club selections) that I wasn’t intrigued with but I stuck with, that surprisingly turned out to be delightful reads.
My genre range is eclectic. Sci-fi and fantasy are pretty low on my list; short stories are near the top. I’m a sucker for a sappy romance, love a good mystery and like discovering new authors, but my top choice is fiction.
Fiction allows me to wander through other people’s lives. As a kid I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys and later as a teen I secretly followed the risqué escapades of Peyton Place. Good stories never lose their appeal. My Antonía, To Kill A Mockingbird, Anna Karenina, James Bond novels and, of course, the Harry Potter and Twilight series captivate readers of all ages.
The characters become friends. Why not, I invest hours learning about them, getting to know them. Like Scarlet I was over the moon for Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind and was furious when he left. I suffered Hester’s public humiliation and scoffed Chillingworth’s cowardly silence.
Sometimes the conclusion of a book is completely different than what I’d expected or anticipated. Sometimes there’s sadness or anger. More often, I’ve loved the book and hate that the story ended. Author, Paul Sweeney, says, "You know you have read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend."
Browsing downtown bookstores like or or the for my "next" read is invigorating. I can spend hours searching. And, when I find the "perfect one" I can’t wait to squirrel away the time to curl up and disappear in the words.
Reading is part of what makes me, me.