Monday, December 21, 2009
Why read at all?
If we read non-fiction in order to learn something, be it a how-to manual on building kitchen cabinets or a Laura Schlessinger self-help book to figure out how we muck up our relationships, then why do we read fiction? To escape? To be entertained? Or maybe, just maybe, to learn something about ourselves and what it is to be human?
For my birthday, I received four novels - three from two of my favorite authors (Mitch Albom and Philippa Gregory) and one new one (Carolly Erickson). Over the weekend my 'office' (read: corner of the bedroom where I peck out tomes on an ancient computer which sits on a desk made out of an old door and plywood) was... not there. New carpet necessitated moving everything to other parts of the house and since I'm still painting the trim, I've been without a workspace for two days now. So with some downtime on my hands, I began reading one of those books. And for awhile, I lost myself in a story about a queen who lived nearly 500 years ago in a country on another continent. Hours slipped by without notice, until my eyelids began to droop and the yawning kicked in. It was nearly midnight.
Last month I blogged about 'Why read historical fiction'? Since then, I've been thinking about why we read novels at all. What do we get out of it? The answer, I think, isn't all that complicated. They make us feel connected to other human beings. They validate our feelings and experiences. You know, all those uncomfortable things like grief, unrequited love, betrayal, failure... And the highs as well, like triumph through perseverance, unconditional love and hope.
I recommend that every now and then, we all shut off our computers, turn off our cell phones, and forget paying the bills. Sink into a book. Find some peace there. Find yourself.