Why I Read

Writers write for many reasons. Therapy. Self-realization. Compulsion. Etc.

But professional writers, those who are published with regularity, find an intersection between why they write and why their readers read. Sure, sometimes that intersection is at the corner of “I’m brilliant” and “Everyone loves everything I write.” But more often, we start not with our own need to express ourselves but with our reader’s already-felt need for … something.

Which led me to the following poem, in which I brainstorm the reasons I read, launching with a line from Shakespeare (maybe you’ve heard of him, even read him) and going where, well, I hope you’ll see. It’s called …

Why I Read

To know what otherwise I would not know,
To go where otherwise I may not go;
To feel, to learn, to grow, to see,
Become what otherwise I could not be;
Remember, reminisce, repent,
Restore a bit of what I’ve spent,
Recapture what I miss and, too,
Envision what I’d like to do;
Escape, sometimes, and heal my mind,
Revive my soul, explore, refine,
Solve problems or just plant a seed,
That and more is why I read.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. So, how about you? Why do you read? And do your reasons in any way inform what and how you write?

18 Responses to Why I Read

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 28, 2022 at 4:10 am #

    I read to shape an inner land
    with values in the firmament
    of heart-sky I can understand,
    and write from, with a pure intent
    to pass along what truly matters
    when the worst of storms has broken,
    leaving temp’ral dreams in tatters,
    but holding still my soul bespoken
    to that stalwart other place
    where honour reigns, no need to weep,
    where every day it showers grace,
    and my tower-watchmen keep
    determined watch through day and night
    to keep me true in what I write.

  2. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. April 28, 2022 at 5:26 am #

    Bob, I read because it is something I have loved since I was a little girl. I remember walking three miles with my mother, to go to the library in town. We only had one car and Dad needed it for work, so she would walk me to the library once a week. I could check out as many books as I could carry home (this was before the days of backpacks). My eyes were always bigger than my strength, but Mom did everything she could to encourage me to read, so she ended up with her arms full of books, by the time we got home, as I transferred the weighty tomes, one by one, into her arms and out of mine. (Dad drove us back to the library, to drop the books off, on Sunday after we ate out for Sunday dinner after church.) To this day, I love reading and literally read everything that is within reach, if it is appropriate for a Christian. That love came in handy when I was working on my Ph.D. because one of my classes had 11 textbooks……

  3. Lori Altebaumer April 28, 2022 at 5:54 am #

    I LOVE the poem! And I’ll add that a good book always makes me a better person.

  4. Darla Grieco April 28, 2022 at 7:43 am #

    Beautiful!

    I read to grow, to learn, as a person and as a writer. I now know from experience the time, research, and effort an author pours into his published work, and this causes me to enter each reading session with awe and respect.

    Reading now not only shapes me in positive ways but teaches me what not to do.

  5. Rosemary Althoff April 28, 2022 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you for the reminder to write for the needs of the readers. It has taken a long time to get beyond my need to write and give my gifts to the readers. God has worked this type of deep caring in me at last.

  6. Debby Zigenis-Lowery April 28, 2022 at 9:01 am #

    I love your poem. It captures the many and varied reasons I read, as well. Reading has been such a blessing in my life. It is the reason, when I earned a mid-life teaching degree, that I chose to teach middle school and high school Reading/Language Arts
    Thanks for reminding me of the joy!

  7. Megan Schaulis April 28, 2022 at 10:46 am #

    I recently noticed a new benefit of reading, specifically Christian fantasy. I was at a worship service and a beautiful thought picture from Kara Swanson’s Shadow filled my mind. It gave me a new outlook on reading (and writing) as a way to stock up on mental imagery that is powerful, victorious, and worshipful.

  8. mstgsl@aol.com April 28, 2022 at 12:37 pm #

    Bob and Andrew, your poems are beautiful. Does reading inform my writing? Absolutely it does. I became a writer simply because I liked to read so much. When I was a child, I thought that the coolest thing anyone could do would be to write a book, but I didn’t think that it would be me because I exceled at math. So I taught math for 25 years and am now off on a tangent of writing. God is good.

  9. Tom April 28, 2022 at 12:58 pm #

    I read to learn facts, experience emotions foreign to me, and to take clever sentences for my own use.

  10. Diane April 28, 2022 at 1:48 pm #

    Your poetry is beautiful and spoke to me on a profound level.

    Why do I read? I read because I breathe.

  11. Roberta Sarver April 28, 2022 at 4:08 pm #

    I am; therefore, I read. Or something like that. Sounds like a quote I read in one of many tangents of reading.

    Seriously, I love the thrill of the cadence of words when reading. I love temporarily living in another’s shoes. I love reading that stirs deep thoughts and emotions. I read to learn perspectives I never considered. There are so many reasons for reading. And best of all, it’s free!

  12. Wendy April 28, 2022 at 4:18 pm #

    I recently read the screenplay for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and it was riveting, which inspired me to buy a collection of Tolkien’s Hobbit and LOTR novels for comparison. Comparing a screenplay to the novel or memoir is an excellent practice for learning to write cinematically, which I hope to do. Films have to be pared down, to fit into a two-hour span, so description, dialogue, and other elements are concise, to get to the heart of the story. (There are often many versions of screenplays, so I try to find the final production version. In this case, ScriptLab had it for free online.)

  13. sylvia April 29, 2022 at 12:39 pm #

    Enjoyed it so much. Love to read, am learning to love to write. thanks for the lovely poem.

  14. Georgia Francis May 1, 2022 at 10:53 am #

    Hi, I read because I’m a curious old bitch that needs to be entertained on many, many levels! I LOVE BOOKS! My favorite store is The Library of Congress. Their merchandise is classy and to the point!

    It’s all about the books, baby!!!

  15. Linda Brown May 6, 2022 at 1:34 pm #

    I read for pure enjoyment. Recently, I have started to write for pure enjoyment.
    Next, I’ll see where this takes me.
    Thanks for the poem. It says it perfectly to me.

  16. Joyce Codrell May 8, 2022 at 4:47 pm #

    I read the Bible wanting to capture the lives of the characters so that Scripture comes alive. I write about Bible characters to help readers see them as the real people they were. I read to see how good fiction writers bring a story to life. I write hoping to do the same.

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