Why do we read?
[Originally written 3/30/1995]
Types of Reading
- For Information
- For Understanding
- For Inspiration
- For Pleasure
- For …?
Reading for Information – a simple taking in of facts, such as reading a newspaper, many business memos and reports, reading a menu, etc.
Reading for Understanding – reading to gain insight or change our perception of an idea; examples include studying a textbook, policy manuals, scientific journals, etc.
Reading for Inspiration – this is reading for motivational or other uplifting purposes, such as religious texts, much of poetry, and anything used to generate creative moods.
Reading for Pleasure – reading which does not fit into any of the prior categories, and specifically serves no purpose other than enjoyable passage of time. Most fiction falls under this category, as does much poetry, and (probably) music notation. [I would classify music notation as Reading for Information, or potentially Inspiration nowadays – Randy]
Why do we read for pleasure? Why makes reading a pleasurable act?
When I read, I often gain a sense of accomplishment at the actions of the characters in the story, even though I did not do anything myself. In a sense, I identify with the characters and I accomplish because they accomplish. The greater I can identify with the story, the more enjoyable the reading becomes. Even if the characters do not succeed, or if the story is not heroic, there is still a quality of soul-expansion which comes from the reading. I become enriched by adding the experiences of the story to my own soul.
Knowing this, it could conversely be said that I write to express myself, either intellectually, spiritually, or creatively. I am saying to the reader, “Identify with me! “
So the Theory, then, is that literature is an indirect communication of the self, from the writer to the reader. The writer expresses some aspect of their souls, either through the characters or through the story itself The reader then extracts what he recognizes in himself from the story, and fills out his soul with the new material.