Why I Read

After months of lacking a physical address at which I could receive mail, Anthony and I have finally settled into an apartment to wait out the rainy season until our house is finished in May. That means I can finally get a library card!

When I lived in Phoenix I used my library card all. The. Time. I checked out numerous books for my classroom and a few for my own reading every time I visited. I loved that I could reserve books from all over Phoenix and they would be delivered to the library closest to my house. This made it easy for me to choose what to read because I would prioritize the ones checked out from the library and streamlining decision making is always a good thing for me.

The last few months we have didn’t have space for physical books and my lack or a library card made it so much easier to just read on my kindle. I love my kindle. It syncs with the kindle app on my phone so I am never without a book and it makes packing for trips so much easier. You, see now I can bring an extra pair of shoes or two because I get to leave out the books I used to haul around. But after reading exclusively on my kindle for a few months I missed having a book in my hands.

That is why I was so excited about my new library card! Luckily, the Salem library lets you borrow books from the 2 Salem branches and 16 libraries in the surrounding towns. When I heard this I immediately put some books on hold, grabbed some books off the shelf, went home, made some tea and read books. Real, glorious, books.

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My first library haul in Salem

Since I finally have books in my hands again I have been thinking a lot about why I read and why I choose the books I do. I think the book fairy was listening to my thoughts because I picked up The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George at the library and came across a passage early in the book where the narrator is discussing why he called his bookshop “The Literary Apothecary.”  The passage reads:

I wanted to treat feelings that are not recognized as afflictions and are never  diagnosed by doctors. All those little feelings and emotions no therapist is interested in, because they are apparently too minor and intangible. The feeling that washes over you when another summer nears its end. Or when you recognize that you haven’t got your whole life left to find out where you belong. Or the slight sense of grief when a friendship doesn’t develop as you thought, and you have to continue your search for a lifelong companion. Or those birthday morning blues. Nostalgia for the air of your childhood. Things like that.

And it hit me. That is why I read. The books that I love contain little nuggets of truth about human nature and about feelings. As a reader I am on a search for passages to help me put into words what I have observed and felt. I too, look at books as a way to diagnose and recognize the smallest feelings that make life tragic, miraculous, beautiful.

So after I had this book epiphany it was only fitting that my friend Amanda threw another bone into the literary stew simmering in my brain. She had me watch a TEDtalk by Nancy Pearl (click here to watch). That discusses what she (Pearl) thinks are the 4 major parts a book contains: story, character, setting and language. Pearl discusses that each book is made up of a certain percentage of each of these parts or, as she calls them, doorways. Every reader has a particular balance of the 4 components that they like their books to have. Some people like a page turner, heavy on story and others like something with beautiful language that may never seem to really go anywhere.

After watching this talk I was so torn about which doorways I like my books to be heavy on. I thought I wanted my books to have all of them in equal slices! But the more I thought about it, the more I think character and setting are the most important to me. I think that they really reflect what I want to get out of a book and why I read, at least right now. If you had asked me why I read 10 years ago I think my answer would have been very different and story would have been my most important door. That is why a doorway is such a good way to describe these elements, because a doorway both opens and closes. You can easily come out of one and try another at anytime! I love that.

Now tell me, why do you read? Is it to escape? Do you read only nonfiction to broaden your factual understanding of the world? Do you read for the complex beauty of well crafted sentences? Or are you like me, on the search for an emotional connection? I’m curious to know more about other readers and why they read!

Until next time,

I love you more than library cards and doorways,

Whitney

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