When you ask a reader why they do it, you get a baffled look. It’s a lot like asking someone why they breathe, or if chocolate is a thing that is good: the response is equal parts scorn and confusion. The truth is that the readers among us (and we are legion) revere the cult of the written word for a variety of reasons. Some of them are noble, and some fall into the squarely ignoble camp. All are valid in their own way (if you’ve had a glass of wine), and even the ones we might hold suspect are fine by me. Hey man, whatever keeps you coming back for more! Here are 10 reasons folks like to read.
1. To Learn
If you don’t know the ins and outs of Feudalism in Medieval France, then there are only two ways to remedy this situation. Since time travel is exceedingly expensive, may I recommend picking up a book and getting your learn on? Before you know, it all those fancy time traveling French-types will be like, “Sacre Bleu, but you are learned for a wizard! CLEARLY WE MUST BURN YOU.” Lol, plebeians—amirite?
2. To Make It Look Like We’re Learning
Sure, learning is great, but sometimes presenting the idea that we’re learning is almost as good as the real gray-matter bolstering deal. Prop open your Hegel and get to nappin’ with your eyes open. All your friends will be impressed at your brain-size, not knowing that you just spent the better part of an hour fantasizing about Idris Elba frolicking in a field of puppies and also cookies, you learnin’ minx.
3. To Attract Bookish Babes
Folks always be making passes at babes wearin’ glasses! I think there must be a corollary between foxiness, intelligence, and near-sightedness. How better to woo the Clark Kent in your life than by whipping out a book? He’ll be weak-kneed and whipping off his spectacles (all the better to smooch you) before you can say, “let me dog-ear this page real quick, guy.” One more reason to own a NOOK.
4. To Expand Our Horizons
In the immortal words of Aladdin, “a whole new world.” Additionally, in the immortal words of that lady who sings the Reading Rainbow theme, “take a look, it’s in a book.” No matter your age, socioeconomic station, or temperament, it is nigh impossible to open a book and not find your world expanded. Outside of the aforementioned powers of time travel or wizardry, reading is the only way I can think of to wake up in your own bed and, without putting on shoes, find yourself fleeing a man intent on hunting The Most Dangerous Game, as you flee into the jungle.
5. To Let Our Freak Flag Fly
Sure, you have to wear sensible trousers to work. And yes, most days of the week you have been known to order a Cobb Salad and have done so for roughly the past eighteen years. But you are more than your boring, day-to-day routines! When we pick out a book, we’re airing our secret freakishness for the world’s consideration. Your hair may say “sedate corporate drone,” but that book makes it clear that you have a passion for the mortuary sciences that knows no bounds. To quote the late, great Michael Jackson: GO ON, GIRL!
6. To Sob
Sometimes crying is a good thing. Sometimes I’ve been known to drop an ice cream cone and wail about it, not even because I was that pumped for my frozen dessert (blasphemy, I know) but because I really needed a good cry. There’s a literary tradition of this, y’all. It’s called mother-lovin’ catharsis! So dig into a tearjerker and let the saline flow, for you are part of a tradition of literature that began with the ancient Greeks—and those guys were pretty awesome. I’m looking at you, Socrates!
7. To Be Devious
Most of us aren’t going to commit major crimes in our lifetime, but that doesn’t mean we can’t derive a vicarious thrill when reading about folks like The Count of Monte Cristo or even The Wolf of Wall Street. Is there anything more satisfying than looking around a room and quietly thinking about how awesome you’d be at implementing a revenge-type scheme while everybody else thinks you’re just thinking about Idris Elba and puppies again? The fools. Books let us experience how the other half lives, minus the jail time.
8. To Save Money
Sure, books cost dollars—but a paperback can cost less dollars than going to the movies, and unless you’re gifted with superhuman speed-reading abilities, they provide hours’ more enjoyment than any flick. Also, as books are made of paper, they provide a myriad of uses when in a pinch. Just ask me what my brothers do when they run out of toilet paper. (Ed. note: B&N does not condone all alternate uses for books.)
9. To Shred
Do you crave toned biceps? Clearly. Muscles are the second most important thing on the planet (the first is naps)! Picking up the heaviest book we own and reading the sweet, holy heck out of it? Guaranteed toning of the arm-meats. You look pretty ripped, nerd. And I like it.
10. To Fall In Love
All joking aside, there’s something indescribable about the feeling reading creates in each of us. I have no way of knowing if what I feel when I am uplifted, amused, and transported is the same thing you feel when you begin your next literary adventure. But if it’s anywhere close, I think it’s safe to say we fall in love each time we read a great book.
Why do you read?