Why Read?

“The movie is not as good as the book.” Readers say this often. Booksellers probably say it more. It might not always be true. Generally, I think it is, although this is not a condemnation of film. They are different art forms. I love good movies (and some bad ones); so why are novels better?

It’s subjective. But novels provide a whole lot more information while simultaneously relying on the reader’s imagination to fill in everything that is not stated. Some novels delve deeply into a protagonist’s mind. A well-written train of thought can be exceptionally engaging and sets the stage for conflict that can only be hinted at through visual and auditory stimulus. The same is true of backstory. In contrast, description in a novel, which can be detailed or sparse, necessarily requires each reader to draw an image that works, breathing life into the story. No two readers will see the exact same thing in their mind’s eye. This, in my view, creates an intimate relationship between reader, author, and story that is unique and fulfilling.

In other words, reading is active. It stimulates the imagination. Also, many writers have a subtle sense of humor that manifests only in the carefully crafted phrasing of text, subtext, and frame.

There are lots of other reasons to read. Brain scans show activity in parts of the cortex that are beneficial. Psychologists suggest empathy rises with deep reading of literature, as well as intelligence and understanding. Readers are generally thought to write better. The scorecard goes on, but the reward, to me, is emotional. I remember the stories I’ve read. I take a journey and I feel it.

So take time to read (or read more). Generations of readers attest to the wonder and joy of the experience. Take your own journey. Feel the pain, sorrow, and triumph. Face the questions and uncertainties. Breathe life into tales that await and find your unique reward.

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