Monday, 19 January 2015

DISCUSSION || The Meaning of... Reading?


Reading is obviously going to mean different things to different people; and I’m not about to address anything as profound as the Meaning of Life (haha, got you there) but I think we’d all be naïve if we said we’d never thought about it before – even non-readers think about this in some shaper or form; I’m sure they wonder why we read when they don’t find any enjoyment in it.

A blanket answer to “why do you read?” is usually, in my experience, “because I love reading” – and then if we extend that to “why do you love reading?” We come up with answers like “because I can escape/be someone else/experience different things.” Which is all well and good, and I know as well as anyone how varied books can be – there really is something for everyone, take a little fall down the rabbit hole and your day goes from ordinary to extraordinary.


It’s a question I find myself asking, mostly in times of philosophical musings (if only I could say these periods were few and far between) – and if I replied with any of the above, I’m afraid I would be lying. I don’t read to escape, or to become someone else. Yet, a lot of people do, a lot of people read to forget their lives for a minute and get to live someone else’s – at first I thought this might just be because I hadn’t found the right book, or maybe it was because of various character defects that didn’t allow me to be truly sentimental in relation to a piece of fiction carved into a pile of desecrated tree.

I haven’t reached a conclusion yet but, as philosophical musings often do, it has raised other questions, namely; am I missing out? Am I missing out because I read for the sheer enjoyment of seeing pen put to paper, rather than some other reason? I haven’t come to a conclusion on any of these matters yet, but I think it’s pretty obvious that, more so profound reason for reading or not, it doesn’t dilute my love, and often times passion, for the written word.

Furthermore, you hear the phrase "this book/author saved my life" - just as I can't seem to love reading as an escape I would feel hypocritical, even uncomfortable, if I ever said a book or author had saved my life (again, I'm not trying to be offensive here! If a book or particular author helped you through a tough time then that's brilliant!) - even the thought of it just makes my skin crawl. I know it sounds harsh, and I don't mean it to!

I’m not berating or mocking the people who do identify with what I can’t, really, I actually admire it – I’m only saying that for me personally, that’s not how it works, sadly.

To explain more thoroughly; when I read a book, no matter what I’m reading, I’m always reading it as me. I’m always thinking, measuring, making assumptions and presumptions – I’m never the character, not for a moment, and I have to stress that this isn’t because an author is terrible at writing in first person, or second person – but because reading is something I look at with a birds eye view, plain and simple. As a result every decision, every plot twist is punctuated by my mind doing different things – rather than going a long with the character, and a lot of the time sarcasm plays a big role in my mental commentary – thankfully this doesn’t tend to distract me from a book, usually. Maybe I am missing out, but in the end, there’s that saying… you can’t miss what you’ve never had.

I will admit this post was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, sure I've given the topic itself a lot of thought but I always felt like it would sound a little stupid in a post - but here we are, and my dirty little secret is out in the world - I'm joking, joking! Its actually a fact I'm okay with, its never caused any emotional turmoil as such, I just find it an interesting point of discussion. So here comes the big question, what do you think?

3 comments:

  1. This is a really interesting post, Fionnuala! I don't read to escape but I read just because I just love words, ya know? I love imagining things, I love forming connections to fictional characters and going on adventures that I can't go on in real life. I understand what you mean about how you're you when you're reading. For some books I'm also like that. I picture the characters and I know this is their story and I don't feel like them, but there are some books I read that I am the character - it varies. Generally with first person I feel like I'm the character and with third person I feel like I'm there with the characters. Fantastic post, Fionnuala!

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  2. I agree with Kyra, this is such an interesting post! So thought-provoking. I do read for escapism - I love being whisked up into a world that includes possibilities you'd never have in the real world. I also love going on adventures of all different varieties and meeting people you never would have otherwise. I live for adventure and when I can't get it in real life, I turn to books.

    But I also just love books for what they stand for and the fact they're books.

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  3. I feel happy with my life, and I don't need to escape. I want to learn more and more, I think that's the main reason for why I read books. It's sometimes the feels of learning when I finish a story. I try to learn a bit from each one. Another reason, I think, is that I read because I can think freely, because no one will reply me every time I try to speak.

    Interesting post!

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