Why Do We Read?

Because I’m an English student, I study quite a few books as well as reading them for my own leisure, and a thing I’ve noticed is that I either end up absolutely despising the books (i.e. anything by James Joyce) or I just end up feeling a bit indifferent to them (i.e. Shakespeare and Arthur Miller’s works). Recently, a friend of mine asked me why I hate The Great Gatsby so much. My reasons for not liking Gatsby, or any books like it, is because I don’t think there’s much in the way of story. There’s tons of symbolism and meanings that go incredibly deep, which is all fine and well because I can appreciate some good symbols, but the events that take place just bored me so, so much, and I ended my reasoning with “that’s not why I read“.

I read because I want to escape; I want to be completely sucked into a story that takes me somewhere else where I don’t have to think way too much. That’s why I don’t like Modernist books: I don’t want to be completely bombarded with symbols and imagery and allegories and pretty much every single other literary technique that I can think of. Books like that are too “artsy” for me. I can appreciate a good piece of art like a painting, or a building, or maybe even an art house movie if I’m feeling particularly pretentious. But I don’t read books for their artistic reputation and that’s also why I’m not much of a classics reader. In fact, my favourite classic books are actually works of genre fiction: they tell fantastic stories, but can still be picked apart and studied. Studying Frankenstein didn’t put me off it at all. Getting to read books like that for study feels like a treat for me, because everything else just puts me to sleep.

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However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to read only books that have an artistic reputation or are considered to be “literary greats”. If people want to read those books then that’s their decision because I can’t change what people like to read and I won’t put people down for that. Everybody likes different things and for different reasons. It’s like my mum says: if we were all the same, the world would be boring. Besides, we’re all readers and we’re all reading. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, whether you like to read more classics or more YA, or even if you like using an eReader. Reading is still reading, whatever someone’s reason as to why they do it.

Tell me, why do you read?

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