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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Yes, that's a good one. I'm sure Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee's love child would agree.

Seriously, though, I think the pattern of "the story" is somehow ingrained into the human spirit. We need to connect with it somehow, even if it's as as vapid as keeping up with shows like Big Brother. There's stil la story in there ... somewhere.
Can I go with the Everest explanation? Because it's there. Seriously though the habit started as child, in the bush, on a farm, surrounded by adults. So I started reading probably for entertainment / to avoid the job list on the wall (which was possibly the only thing I wouldn't read in those days), but mostly because it was a way to escape / dream. Haven't lost the habit in the 4 years since.

Nowadays I'm still reading to escape "the farm" although the farm is a whole lot smaller these days and I'm here voluntarily now :)
errrr - that should be 4(something) years since. Not even me at my delusional best could think it was only 4 years since I was a child.
Yeah, I was wondering about that. You don't strike me as the kind of person that has only been reading for four years!
Books were toys to me at first. I used to play with them as a toddler--knocking them out of the bookcase! Also, I used to go to sleep holding a Golden Book. When I was older, my father took me to the library and said: "someday you'll be going to the adult section!" How I longed for that day. Now to answer the question: I read in order to escape into other worlds, other lives and situations. I can ride with the police, hang out with villians and heroes. Listen to them, hate them, love them--I can witness a murder. Be there when they discover the body. Cry with the victim's relatives. I get to leave my own rather mundane world to inhabit other worlds. I read because we no longer gather around a fire in a circle--to hear a wise old person telling us stories. I guess reading is the outgrowth of that. The hearing of tales--which, I am glad to say, will go on forever, whether it be on paper or on the internet or someday transformed into some other medium we cannot even imagine. It won't matter as long as it goes on.
Books can't talk back or about me. Each one I open feels like my new best friend. Plus books allow me to learn things that I wouldn't normally learn.

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