Why I read?

15 Apr

Some days back I was chatting with a friend about books and favorite authors, when she asked me the question.

I thought it will be easy to answer but when I tried to reply surprisingly I could find no words that could construct a satisfactory reply. And I was silent.

Eventually I said I don’t know.

But the question stayed with me.

I still have no answer to it. But when I look at my overall trajectory as a reader, I know what I read and the reason for it. This arc is specific to me and is not a generalized reasoning.

The starting point of this goes back to my school days.

I was never a good student and text books were my nemesis. Learning was boring, a punishment, a dreaded activity. I don’t remember except for maybe one or two teachers who got me interested in what I was reading. Anything that even remotely smelt like education immediately got a repulsive response from me. And this was true all through my educational years. But studying was mandatory which had to be. It was option less. So I studied, but my mind made an official submission that he was undertaking this activity under severe stress and compulsion.

So the studies were compensated by indulging in pure entertainment in the books I chose. World is in danger set ups, flights of fantasies, thrillers, spy games, murder mysteries, Phantom, Mandrake, Green Lantern, Bahadur, Champak, anything that was entertaining.

Entertaining as defined by me. Things that did not seem like a punishment.

And definitely didn’t require any coercion or a teacher with a stick.

A voluntary action.

Surprisingly for someone with my academic record, I had some very intelligent friends, not the muggers but intelligent. Students who loved what they read, and they would always be lost in those boring formulas and equations and reactions and balances and theories and other vague stuff. They never felt the need to escape from that humdrum academic studies. They seemed to find the same joy in their books as I found in my escapist world.

I stuck to my reading habits for years and years and decades.

And with each passing year, I grew older. As a grew older, I don’t know if I turned wiser but my reading habits changed. I still loved my comics and murder mysteries but in general I became a seeker. I looked for not much but a little meaning in what I read.

With this change, came some semblance of order in what I read. Books I picked, authors I read were linked to each other in some manner, even when the linkage was tenuous or tangential it was there in some form.
And these books were my textbooks. I read them, though the authors were abstruse and subjects dense, yet I stayed with them. I tried because they engaged me.

Now I understand my friends who spent hours with their chemistry, physics, quantum mechanics, number theory books. They wanted to read them because those books entertained them.

Education and entertainment I would timidly propose are synonyms.

That I guess also answers why I read.

I read because I want to learn.

I read because I want to improve.

I read because I have ambition.

I read so that I too can dream.

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2 Responses to “Why I read?”

  1. John Doe April 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    i read because there is a voyeur in me. which lives vicariously in other lives, other thoughts, other experiences. reading is enriching oneself by celebrating the other.

  2. fictitioustruth April 15, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Enriching oneself by celebrating the other is such an apt description of what I wanted to say. When a follower of science is reading a research paper he is enriching himself by celebrating the thinking of a fellow scientist, a fellow seeker.
    When an online group forms to collectively read “Infinite jest”, they enrich themselves collectively and thank the creator for the pleasure.
    It is enjoyable, it is a fulfilling experience.
    Learning is a desire, what you learn is upto the seeker.

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