I read not because I have found the time for it, as so many people say they long to do, but because I can’t imagine not reading. It’s one of those things you just do, like putting the coffee on in the morning and locking up at night. A day without reading is like a day without solitude and reflection; a day without a belly laugh; a day without sun.
I read not because they say it’s good for kids to see their parents read, although I don’t suppose it hurts them. I read because it’s the only thing you can do lying down that’s considered vaguely virtuous. Unlike most things I like, books aren’t fattening or expensive or bad for you.
A book is a great companion. You can take it to bed, and the worst thing it will do is keep you up all night. You can take it to a bathtub, a beach, a blanket in the woods, a porch swing, a plane, a car or a bus, and it doesn’t have to be repaired, subscribed to or paid for in monthly installments.
I read because of what reading is not. Reading won’t get you invited to the right parties or projected onto the path of success. It’s also ideal for multitasking because while you can eat while reading and bathe while reading, three things you absolutely cannot do while reading (and I have tried) are fret about tomorrow, wish today away and regret yesterday.
I read to honor the unwritten contract between reader and writer: You hold my interest and show me the truth, and I will not only suspend my disbelief but also follow you to Narnia, Nazi Germany or the Nile. With a dog on my lap and my nose in a book, I can go to the ends of the earth and beyond, without ever stirring from the couch.
Every few weeks, I go to the library and come home with an armload of books. If the stars are right, I’ll end up with one I feel like reading clear through to the end. I won’t finish them all any more than I would keep on eating a not particularly good pizza after I was full, out of a feeling that on some level I had committed to it. I quit reading books that don’t grab me because I know that if I continue the hunt, I’ll find enough I love to last the rest of my life.
I read because you never know when you might meet a Jane Eyre, a Holden Caulfield, a Boo Radley, a Snopes, a Gump or a Garp. And I suspect that if I reach an age where I am peering through a magnifying glass at large print editions, I will not wish that I had gone to more committee meetings, but that I had read more books.
Rebecca Christian is freelance writer from Ames, Iowa.