I am a reader. I cannot remember NOT being a reader. I have very clear memories of sobbing down the hall to the bathroom after the crushing last line of one book. I remember dropping two books – two! – right out of my hands from surprise at shocking scenes I didn’t see coming. I remember my Dad watching me as I neared the end of “Of Mice and Men,” shushing my Mom when she tried to talk to me. I don’t know how many bulbs I burned out because I fell asleep with them on, a book on my chest.
Then came my babies and I got to pass it on, this crazy love of reading. I have a picture of my daughter at six months old sitting on my lap, staring at the pages of a picture book I am reading to her. I will always cherish the memories of reading longer chapter books to the two of them at night, sometimes separately, sometimes snuggled together in one of their beds for the nighttime ritual, a series of emotions flashing across their faces, occasionally looking quickly at each other as if to say, “Wow!” Their reactions…. that’s what made it for me.
I teach reading, belong to a book club, spend more money than my husband cares to calculate at bookstores – on-line and walk-in. And my Dad had to recently build me a new bookcase to allow for…. well, you get it.
So the question came up recently, Why do you read? Actually, I think I’M the one who asked that question! I downloaded several “Top 100 Novels of the Last Century” type lists and scrutinized them. I was shocked at how few of the books I have read. As an English major, I have gotten away with a lot of NOT reading! I’ve read many classics and went through a spell in high school where that was most of what I bought and read. But as I’ve gotten older and busier, I’ve also gotten lazier.
And that really bothers me. Perhaps I’m not challenging myself enough. Shouldn’t I read those books? Am I wasting my time reading fluff and nonsense? It’s escapism, relaxation — but is that good enough? Hence the question: WHY do you read? Casual, non-professional reading that is.
I read to be entertained. I have to think a lot on my job as well as do a lot of professional reading. My brain gets taxed plenty. I want to read to escape that a bit. But I don’t want to be made dumber by my choice of reading material. THAT’S happened before – a painful, time-wasting experience. I’m also a sucker for endings, hoping that even a bad book will be justified by some wonderful twist at the end. Also a painful, time-wasting experience when that doesn’t happen. I am aware, too, that this brain is the only one I get, and to keep it active and healthy, like any other organ/muscle, I need to exercise it. And just how much exercise does it get with some of my novel choices?
So the conclusion I’ve come to is this: I will continue to read my strange assortment of fiction that I enjoy – drama, action, thrillers, fluff, sci-fi — well, just about any genre — because I ENJOY it. But I am not getting younger. The mere passage of words through this brain is keeping it active, but just walking to the mailbox or around the block is no longer enough exercise for the rest of the body either. So I intend to challenge myself to read some of those Top 100 that I’ve missed as a type of Brain Exercise. I have a window to the right of this blog which lists the book(s) I’m currently reading. Maybe that will keep me honest. I also intend to create a book review page which I would love to make interactive so you can weigh in on your opinion as well.
I’m already feeling a blog coming on questioning the merits of reading classic literature. I’m going to withstand the temptation to get negative early and start perusing those lists for my next read. And who knows? Maybe I’ll actually — gulp! — be entertained!