Why I read…

Why I read…

Two Women Reading, Sylvia Plath

I have been buying books recklessly. I see a book I have heard about and pounce on it at the very sight of the paperback. I read a review and I think this might be the book that I have been looking for and start hunting for it. I have spent thousands of rupees on books this year. Every week I am adding new titles to my shelf. It is brimming with books, it seems to shout that it cannot take more; a new shelf will have to share the load. I have bought twenty-four books in 2011 and there’s still half a year to go.

Every reader should ask herself “Why do I read?” Every reader should be asked “Why do you read?” For pleasure? For satisfaction? Yes. But there are other motives. What are they? The Reader should know what makes him “run his tongue naked into books”.

I have been asked the same question myself a lot lately. I have had some extraordinary reading experiences in the past month which have led me to ask myself the same question. And it isn’t only about reading. It is also about the uncontrollable urge to possess books that I would like to read in near future. The urge to be surrounded by books.

The answer would never come to you in a flash. It would slowly trickle down your mind like a drop of sweat; it would ooze out of the senses that are awakened when you read, as you read. It would rise in the form of bubbles from the hot spring of ideas in the reader’s mind. It would incubate; it would take time to gather itself. And one day, it would present itself in front of you (it could be at the oddest of times) and surrender.

I read because I want to know what is behind the face in the picture of the writer on the back cover. I want to see language in a new form; I want to explore and appreciate its uniqueness each time I open a book. I want to live the events in a book that I would not experience at all otherwise, or at least for a very long time. I read because I want to see another world through a different set of eyes. I read because I like feelings and thoughts being articulated. I read because some writers make me horripilate with their writing styles: I read for thrill. I read because I love the written word. I want to thrust solitude upon myself, detach myself from the world when it stops making sense to me, and come back to it when a session of reading has made me believe that it does, if you change your approach.

There is another aspect of reading that I would like to talk about —the solitude it enforces on you. Reading is a solitary activity, after all. It’s the other way round as well —solitude brings about a love for reading. The desire to escape from ennui makes it necessary for some to make the acquaintance of fictional characters. But, is reading really a solitary activity in the 21st century? In a world where social networking tools such as Twitter and Goodreads connect readers to each other, this solitude is becoming more and more elective. Readers around the world are asking for suggestions, recommending books, participating in online book-clubs, and even holding online group readings. They are coming together and building an internet-based reading community that is stronger than ever. Two such tools enabling readers to share their observations and discuss books are Fridayreads and 1book140. Fridayreads is a readers’ community on Twitter and Facebook that invites readers to share with the ‘Twitterverse’ what book(s) they are reading. I have often Tweeted my Fridayreads and received enthusiastic comments and reactions from people I would otherwise not even have had the chance to talk to. Fridayreads is a great way of coming across new books, writers and readers. More than 5000 people are tweeting each Friday what they are reading and reaching out to a community of readers that loves to talk about books. 1book140 is again a Twitter-based book-club hosted by The Atlantic magazine.  Readers voted for Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Assassin as the inaugural book for discussion. Atwood tweeted “Would it be cheating if I joined in?” The book-club has been welcomed with great zeal by readers and they will soon choose a second book for discussion in the month of July.

I have deviated much from the point, but I have made this digression with intent. In my social milieu, reading is not taken up with much fervour. At times, it is even looked down upon, as if it were some mind-numbing anti-social activity that would turn you into a supercilious monster who goes on babbling incomprehensible words and ideas. And yet, this condescending attitude towards reading doesn’t emerge from hatred. It emerges from a failure to grasp the power of reading and the meaning that it adds to one’s life. The helpless feeling of incomprehensibility of certain non-readers towards reading makes them susceptible to condemning something they cannot do. If you cannot appreciate reading, simply pass it off as something you would rather not do if given a choice.

I read because I do not identify with such people. I read because I know reading is not anti-social but it brings like-minded people together. I read because reading is what I would like others to do if I ever wrote a book. I read because there is no better way to disseminate ideas than writing them in form of books. I read because books never let me get bored —they are a perpetual comfort in the hardest of times. I read because I know that even if I am buying twenty-four books in six months I am going to read all of them. I read and buy books because one day I am going to have a large library with thousands of books and a mahogany coffee-table. You will be invited to tea and we’ll talk about books and munch home-baked cakes.

Tell me, why do you read?

This entry was posted in Books, Reading Bug and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Why I read…

  1. pkg says:

    I read to connect with people and places and lives of so many different characters. You can visit so many places, experience so many things which may not be possible in real life through your reading.

  2. Bobbie Rae says:

    I read to enjoy good writing, the flow of words into images in my mind. At a garage sale, I once bought 21 Russian author paperbacks; my sister asked me which of them I wanted – I told her “all.” Read on!

    • Prashansa says:

      I read to enjoy good writing, the flow of words into images in my mind.

      That’s wonderfully put!

      I would love to know which paperbacks you bought that day.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. benchpaint says:

    Read your post – awesome as usual! Again, reading being considered an anti-social activity is not unique to your milieu. Even here, when I’m with my friends, I have to shut up about the books I read or risk getting ostracised. It’s even considered snobbish, talking about books. Whereas movies and TV..(which can be mighty dumb at times) are much talked about, praised and discussed. This is a paradox, but I have a few theories as to why this happens.

    1) I’m from a predominantly Tamizh background, and many of my friends don’t have the requisite vocabulary to understand what’s written in (English) books. And nobody would want to sift through reams and reams of incomprehensible gibberish, would they?

    2) But even if the above argument is true, the lack of good vocabulary in English should not prevent them from reading books written in Tamizh, which, after all, is our mother tongue! (And Tamizh has a very rich literary tradition, dating back to more than 2000 years ago)
    No, I don’t see any of my peers being interested in Tamizh Lit either.

    Why then do you think this situation prevails among teens?

    • Prashansa says:

      Thanks Pranavi!

      I guess this phenomenon has much to do with the conditioning and upbringing of an individual. Many people are not brought-up to love books. Then there is the stereotypical belief so often advertised by cinema and other forms of popular culture (in our milieu) that ‘reading is for nerds’. But I know many people who came to love reading late in their lives, which is a great thing! To quote Tennyson, “All precious things discovered late/To those that seek them issue forth.”

      Keep reading!


  4. Ishaan mital says:

    You’re such a romantic. You make books seem edible. You make reading sound like love.
    Phew!Yes the thing with reading is that it disciplines, it quietens, it shuts us up and forces the mind to work-to critique or imagine.Of course opposition hides insecurities and those who denigrate reading are probably insecure.But then I guess to each their own.This one is a nice read. And you know why I read it!

  5. Vidhi Jain says:

    an amazing blog post by you….i was thrilled and inspired after reading it…..

    So I read because it stimulates my thought process, gives me new perspectives that i have never thought about, makes me meet people which i wont meet otherwise, makes me visit places which i wont be able to visit otherwise…I can lose myself to find myself back even more firmly through a book……because a book is a painting in words……u need to exert your own self to be somewhere else and someone else through the power of words…..I can go and on….but i’ll just stop at this.

  6. Reading is in my habit and I read daily for 2 to 3 hours. Sometime books are from my professional background while at times they are public administration books. I just love to read books. I like the smell of book and I can not live without it.

    It helps me in relaxing and refreshing. Moreover it takes me away from the world in reality and makes me feel there virtually.

  7. Pingback: What is FridayReads? | Deb's Answers

  8. sakura says:

    Hello. I’ve been reading since I can first remember and it’s an integral part of my life. I think I read to learn about people, life, other cultures and to understand what we know. You have a wonderful blog here and I’d have been extremely happy and proud if I was able to write as engagingly as you do when I was 17!

  9. Wow! I’m not sure how much reading I would have done at 17 (or now) if I could WRITE as well you do. I loved your discussion of the positivity of the solitude which is integral to reading. I read because my single parent father made sure that none of his kids can remember not being able to read, and because it lets me transcend the limits on my mobility which reality imposes on me. I don’t read as much as I should, although I’m working on that, and I’m inspired by reading such an eloquent paean to the simple necessity of reading. The only points of difference are my disinterest in book clubs of any sort, and my (recent) affection for my Kindle – the words matter more than the medium. I will definitely be looking forward to reading a lot more of what you write, that’s for sure.

    • Prashansa says:

      You are kind — I’m glad you liked my blogpost. I wrote it about a year ago (I don’t remember a thing about those “extraordinary reading experiences”!), and my opinion of e-readers has changed since then. I guess I was just being a stubborn Luddite. I am now convinced that e-readers make great companions. My interest in online booksclubs too has waned, and I have hardly kept track of the discussions on 1book140.

      Many thanks for your insightful comment! I haven’t updated my blog in a long time, but I’ll write regularly now that I have a reader like YOU!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s