Barbara Fister tagged me with this question some time ago and I've been extremely slow in responding to it. Partly out of laziness, but also because it's one of those questions like 'how do you breathe?'. Reading is second nature to many of us, at least round here, so it's hard to be conscious of our reasons.

For me, the main reason I read is to escape. It sounds a little gloomy, but when I was a kid I was disappointed in the world being a series of mundane activities. Go to school, go home, eat dinner, sleep. I wanted there to be something more. Initially I was drawn to science fiction for this reason, because the worlds were so completely different to my own. And so I read a lot of it. I didn't get to crime fiction until only a few years ago.

I used to hate stories about people. I was more interested in ideas, alternate realities, aliens. It took me the longest time to realise that at the core of all stories, they were about people anyway.

My reasons for reading have expanded since then. I read to learn new things, experience new places, ideas, people. I read to hold a mirror up to what I know of life. But in the end, it always comes down to escaping, because it's so much damned fun.

I'd be interested in hearing other people's thoughts on the matter.

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I'm nosey. The characters in books are always telling me their most outrageous secrets.
"After years of little or no reading."

That's the same thing that happened to me. I spent a lot of time learning about music instead, so that took up all my creative energies. It wasn't until I moved on to writing that I returned to reading.

I'm curious. What caused your reading drought, Emily?
When I was in the first and second grade I was sick a lot. One time I was so sick it took me a day to eat a cracker and drink a glass of juice. A friend of mine in the same school would visit me once a week and bring me Charlie Brown/Snoopy cartoon books. -- then I read anything and everything - Huckelberry Finn, Black Beauty, Heidi. Then I found I loved mysteries and started reading Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Beldon. Not for the travel but for the game of figuring out who was guilty. When I was in middle school I found Phyllis Whitney and devoured her books for the travel adventure. In High school I could devour a book a day. Still can if it captures me. I can't afford to travel so I read mysteries that take place in a different area. Florida, Louisianna etc. If there's some romance it just spices it up for me.

I also however, have a curious mind. Anything that comes up that I want to learn about I hit the books. Library, then book store, and finally the internet.

A curious mind.

I guess that's reason enough right there. :)
My parents read. My parents had a lot of books. I got books for Christmas and for my birthday. And there wasn't much TV. Books were pretty much all there was. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I've seen what happens to kids who don't read books daily.
Yeah, they turn into me.

I didn't read as a kid, there were very few books in my house growing up. I admit, my kids have a lot more books than I did.

I had to learn to like reading. It really didn't kick in for me till I found books that had characters I could understand and believe - not "realte to," or ones like me, but like people I knew, anyway. I don't read to escape (which I think is a fine reason to read) but to try and get a better understanding of my own world.

Funny, though, the more I read, the less I understand my world....
I read one of the best descriptions of a good read in an introduction by Michael Connelly to, I think, a paperback edition of Thomas Perry's THE BUTCHER'S BOY. In it, he compares a book to a car where they pull up beside you and ask you to take a ride, and with the good ones, you want to get in and stay in. And after reading that, I keep coming back to it: I read so that I can take that car ride with characters I want to be with. It has a lot to do with escape, as has been mentioned by a couple other responses here, but any book can provide some level of escape. I won't keep reading unless it's got people in it I want to escape with.
I ask myself this question every day, particularly when I should be ironing, feeding my kids, phoning my Mum, getting some exercise or editing my WIP...
Today I was actually reading at some traffic lights!!!! An all time low perhaps.
But why do I do this infuriatingly time consuming, all encompassing thing? Because like drugs and wine and sex and food - it's just too much fun to stop.
HB x
Let me recommend recorded books for the car.
I read novels for entertainment, newspapers and nonfiction for education -- and all three to expand my limited vocabulary. Also, I relate to something Stephen King wrote in his Danse Macabre book (I'm paraphrasing here): "Fiction tells us things about ourselves through characters who never existed."
At four, I started to read the backs of cereal boxes on the kitchen table. My mother took me to Vernon Grade School in Portland, Oregon, as I had pestered her to go to kindergarten. Alas, no admittance until five years of age! Later I skipped part of the first grade (divided then with 1-A and 1-B). Is it any wonder that I grew up to work in libraries and later became an English teacher?
I read because "the story" is seductive. I can't bear not hearing the story.


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