At AbeBooks we believe there is something undeniably special about reading. And we don’t just love to read books. We love to talk about them. So over the past few weeks, we’ve asked our Facebook followers to answer a few questions: When did they fall in love with reading? Why? What is their favorite thing about books?
The responses we received were a treat to read. Some, like me, have loved reading since before they even knew how. Others came to appreciate the hobby later in life. I could relate to many of the memories shared. The adventure of having my first library card. The frustration of being continually told by my parents to “take a break” from reading and “go outside.” The wonderful feeling of refreshment that I continue to experience each day that I spend reading a book (most recently C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford).
Whether we came to love reading at five or at fifty, the experience has become a significant and treasured part of many people’s lives. Here are seven of the most common reasons why.
1. Reading dares you to grow.
Before you can read, you must learn how. You must push yourself to interact with meaningless lines and squiggles until they transform into stories, characters and ideas. And once you master picture books, you move forward to children’s novels. Novels without pictures. Classic literature. Books in foreign languages. Reading is an exercise in perseverance, in which you constantly challenge yourself to achieve more than you did with your last book.
2. Reading allows you to experience multiple realities.
We all have a uniquely valuable role in life. But many of us, even if satisfied with that role, often wonder what it would be like to live in a different place, work at a different job, or even be a completely different person. For brief moments of time, books release us from the constraints of our own reality. They take us beyond our world and into someone else’s real or imaginary one. They satisfy the curiosity of the elusive “What if?”.
3. Reading challenges your perspective.
When you experience life through the eyes of another, you encounter diverse angles on life’s most common situations. Talented authors will naturally inspire empathy for their characters, and empathizing with viewpoints different from your own can feel uncomfortable. Extremely uncomfortable. While reading doesn’t mean that you’ll agree with different perspectives, it does offer you the opportunity to understand them.
4. Reading helps you remember.
Reading isn’t only about discovering the new. It’s also a vehicle for reflection. Many bibliophiles can trace their love of reading back to a cherished memory, such as being read to by a parent or discovering the first book they ever loved (Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss or Enid Blyton, anyone?). Re-reading those favorite books, or reading about familiar places, times and people helps us recall the details of our own lives. It reminds us who we are, where we are and how we came here.
5. Reading helps you forget.
Chronic escapism is by no means a healthy habit, but neither is dwelling on stressful life circumstances one hundred percent of the time. In short doses, allowing your mind to focus on things other than your challenges can be highly beneficial and even necessary. Reading, like exercise, offers a safe, healthy and productive replacement for negative thinking. It gives your mind a safe place to rest until you regain the strength you need to overcome your obstacles.
6. Reading means you don’t have to be alone.
During your life, you will experience numerous transitions. Changing schools, jobs or cities may require you to replace old relationships with new ones, and sometimes successful adjustments are harder or take longer than expected. Whether it’s through the comfort of a favorite book or through an emotional connection to relatable characters, books provide a stable source of companionship during the times that you feel the only person you can count on is yourself.
7. Reading brings life.
If you’re a book lover, chances are that you’ve experienced reading to be a rejuvenating activity that renews your energy and elevates your mood. Numerous book lovers have testified that reading gives them purpose, helps them persevere through difficulty and unlocks parts of themselves they didn’t even know existed. For all of the reasons in this article and more, reading makes us feel optimistically, breathlessly, tenaciously alive.