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Have You Ever Wondered Why You Read Books? These Are My Reasons Why, And They've Been Different Over The Years

Have you ever wondered why you read books? And have you ever thought that maybe that reason is different now, as opposed to several years ago? (Not to even mention about when you just started.)

A GIF of a sloth, making a thinking face

I have been wondering about this lately. How it’s not just my reading choices, genres, preferred themes that change, but even reasons why I read in the first place.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading.

I remember reading always. As long as I’ve been alive and can remember myself, apart from the brief few years straight before university because I had to cram a lot for the exams. I guess I couldn’t remember why I read back then even if I tried. Perhaps it was just natural, the way I was brought up to read all the time? I barely even remember what I read, sadly. But for kids, reading is just reading, I guess – like exploring anything else. You’re not picky – everything is still so fresh and interesting. We read to explore as kids. Its why we like reading about adventures the best. That, or fantasy worlds.

A GIF of Bilbo from The Hobbit, running through the Shire and shouting ‘I’m going on an adventure!’

One of my favorites from that time was precisely the Hobbit:

I know that as a teen, I also started reading to relate.

There’s something amazing to read about someone quite like you, but who is also doing Big Crazy Things™ as a teen. To find those shy, introverted characters, who, even if slighty cliche, go out there and defeat monsters. And win. Or, more rarely, are accepted into society, while their bullies are not. (Sadly, I did not encounter many books with bullying portrayed well. It was a time when bullying was considered light and whimsical, and an inconvenience at best – not the soul crushing monster we see it as today.) It’s really no surprise the YA is so popular, especially YA fantasy: teens need to see people like themselves winning, when they often feel so lost in their own world. Which is why we need to many more books where typical, non-perfect and especially diverse teens beat the baddies or achieve good things. As a teen, you really need to see this in the media.

As kids, we read to explore. As teens, we might read to relate. As adults, we can read to escape or to discover. Have you ever wondered why you read? Click To Tweet

Anyway, slightly after reading about adventuring teens, I know I started dream-reading.

A GIF of Bunny (Usagi) from Sailormoon, with hears in her eyes

And by dream-reading, I mean that it was sort of fulfilling a daydreaming function for me. It’s too bad I didn’t have any accessible good, clean romance stories around me at the time. (I know many of you hate the word ‘clean’ for romance, but at least you know what I mean – I wanted young teen romance. Not steamy adult stuff.) There’s a ridiculous lack of realistic teen romance stories!! Or, at least, there was at the time when I was a teen, and that’s slightly before, say, even Twilight was even a thing, to give you a time reference.

If I had had access to nice, soft and unthreatening romance that happens to simple and not special teen heroines at the time, maybe I’d love reading romance now. Sadly, life experiences make it so that I either get really put off by most romance books – I either roll my eyes, or it makes me depressed for weeks, even though its supposed to cheer me up.

A GIF of Grumpy Cat holding up an umbrella while hearts are falling onto her

Then came my late teens, and I know I started reading for a whole ‘nother reason.

Gone was the dreaming, gone were the adventures. Life was dark, and I plunged head-first into horror. I read a lot of Stephen King – more than a lot of grown-ups have, quite often, in their lifetimes. Of course, it was interesting, it was engaging and well written – but I don’t think that’s why I read it. I think I read it because I needed to confirm that the world is as dark as it looked from my my corner of the world back then. Bleak, hopeless, and with a looming dread always around the corner. (To be honest, I don’t know if its good I read so much Stephen King when I was 15-16. The fact that it didn’t scare me… scares me now. If the story of the clown from IT doesn’t scare you, then you are living in a really dark and deep shithole.)

A GIF of the moving night sky, clouded, dark and broken by lightning

Some of my favorites from that time:

Sadly, after the Stephen King interlude, I had to stop reading for some 3 years.

I had loads of exams and other responsibilities. I couldn’t spare any time for reading non-course books, so I read engineering books for fun. I also read in Japanese for language practice. Mostly Haruki Murakami, because he complimented the dark world of Stephen King with his cold, desolate weirdness. (Yes, I’ve read Murakami in his mother tongue. Fear me.) I did read other stuff though, but it was also mostly just dark.

Some of my favorites from that time:

After the school load eased up, I could finally pick up where I left. But since the last stuff I was into was Murakami, and I was now older, I picked up a lot of high brow stuff. Stuff I now yawn at. I think, at that time, studying solely among men (oh yes, the realities of studying engineering in my country), day-to-day life was kind of vulgar – all the more vulgar, because everything was simplified, especially the jokes. Because have you tried hanging out with engineer men? They either do vulgar, dirty or nerdy. Nerdy is fun and great, but that’s about the only stroke of ‘intellectual’ you’ll get. (Guys, don’t be angry. You’re intellectual I’m sure – and maybe your group is – my peer group SO wasn’t.)

So I guess, at that point, I needed reading to be my “theatre” and my “philosophy”.

I steered away from light, fun or adventurous heads. It was the time YA was only taking off here, and it got a bad rap with all the vampire stuff that mass-flooded the market (let’s admit that mass floods like that rarely produce quality, and it took the industy a few years to sort out the wheat from the chaff.) I was effectively put off YA for YEARS!

Anyway though, I think I was reading to be somewhat snotty too. It’s pretty embarrassing to think about it now!

And a little funny. Perhaps its not that uncommon to be a maximalist is Your early 20s?

A GIF of Marilyn Monroe, gorgeously shrugging (I will never tire of this GIF, I swear.)

I know that after I left uni and was trying to find myself, I started enjoying biographies.

Mostly because it was stories about REAL people. They inspired me, because sometimes these stories could be stronger than any fictional book! I guess I was reading for hope – stuck in a job I hated, with jobless parents, no personal life to speak of. Loneliness and lack of direction were all heavy things on my heart – and reading real stories of people who also struggled, but grew despite it, made me feel better. They still do. I still adore real life stories, whether happy or sad.

At that time I also read a lot of New Age, meditation and lucid dreaming stuff. I still do from time to time. That I read for self-improvement. I had a lot of time on my hands because I didn’t know what I was doing in my job, and neither did my boss, it seems. So I devoted a lot of time for reading. My huge Goodreads  to-read shelf mostly comes from that time!

I read a lot of classics then, cause it was accessible and free – and I fell in love with Victorian classics.

I still fondly remember discussions in the Goodreads reading group. Why did I read stuff that was written at least 100 years ago? Because I wanted to escape to a world that was simpler and slower than our own, but still the same world (somehow fantasy was far too fantastical.)

Some of my favorites from that time:

After that I started getting into review books, even though I wasn’t a blogger yet. And from there, it just took off, and here we are.

I know at some point I read purely for the numbers. I also read for hope, for escape, for validation of my worldview. Now? I don’t know, perhaps all those things. But there are new reasons now. Now, I also read for the jokes and the mood – never a thing a decade ago, reading was serious for me back then. I also read to escape into a feel-good world. I read to challenge my thinking and my moral concepts. But most of all, I now read to be able to talk to you all about it! I read to connect, I read to support authors and topics I care about. I read to find my home – because my home is sometimes the very act of reading. I also read to shut the inner chatter up. I sometimes read to basically meditate, you could say. I even read to put my sorry insomniac ass to sleep. So I guess, in the end, there are more reasons I head (or read in the past) than I suspected, before I started writing this post. And what about you?

What are your reasons for reading? Have they changed over the years?

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Evelina AvalinahsBooksPaul LiadisAmanda @Cover2CoverMomStephanieRums the Reader Recent comment authors

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Sally Dixon
Guest

Like you, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t read. Right from the age of about 5, I always had a book on the go and I cannot imagine not having one now. Kindle has been a godsend, so I don’t have to find room in my house for shelf upon shelf of novels though and can just keep a space for favourite hardback non-fiction. As I child I adored Enid Blyton, especially the ‘Adventure’ series. Nowadays I read most things, from John Grisham to Jill Mansell. I don’t like fantasy or erotica and am not very keen on… Read more »

Satia
Guest

Hi, this is one of my favourite blogs. I love your progression through different reading genre and taking the time to explore why. I too was an avid reader as a child, then in my mid-teens became obsessed with Stephen King books. All horror actually, dark psychological books. Stephen King also often wrote about being young – a child/teen, and that suited me. I also read YA as a mid-teen too. One of my favourites was a girl who finds out her cousin who comes to live with them is a witch. In my early twenties I switched to the… Read more »

Anjana
Guest

I love this post! This is a very impressive topic to tackle especially as a self assessment
Life’s different stages do seem to need a different set of books like some sort of background score..
I think one major factor causing a difference, in my reading journey has become access. Now that I have more access to better recommendation as well as the books themselves, I’ve become less likely to stick with something that causes me any form of distaste.
Some genres have continued as a steady trend throughout like mystery(different authors but same style preferred) but others have been changing.

Rosie Amber
Guest

My reading has really changed. First it was what I could get at the mobile library. Then it was books borrowed from friends. Later it was books bought for me as gifts.
Then the e-book arrived and I was bought a kindle. I delighted at downloading free books, classic books, then I began buying e-books.
Later as a reviewer my reading genres have been blown wide open and I have read books that I would never have picked up. I’ve been lucky and have found some gold nuggets among them too.

Jules_Writes
Guest

Interesting post, like you I’ve read for as long as I can remember but I’ve never really asked myself why I read. I just do.

Jules_Writes
Guest

Sorry I pressed send to early. I’m going to have a think about my reading and how it’s changed over time. As I said interesting blog post!

Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites
Guest

I definitely read for escapism, but on the flip side I’m also fascinated by memoirs and biographies! (also, heck yes to Jane Eyre! it’s my favorite classic!) the YA market seems so saturated now that I frequently hesitate when deciding whether to pick up that new super-hyped title, and it makes me sad because I used to LIVE for YA – fantasy/sci-fi, contemporary, just everything.

Laura Thomas
Guest

Evelina, your post is fantastic! You got me thinking and my reading cycle was so similar to yours! Right down to reading for moods:) Never really thought about it before. Thanks for sharing and I love this!

Anne - Books of My Heart
Guest

I read because I want to KNOW.

Yvonne
Guest

Interesting post. I mainly read for escapism. That’s why I mostly read fiction. It relaxes me from things going on in the real world.

Paul Liadis
Guest

You probably know what I read currently from goodreads 🙂 I don’t remember ever not reading but have changed. I have memories of Dick and Jane and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Mulligan_and_His_Steam_Shovel). Teen years I was mostly reading comic books. So many comic books. Especially Batman and the X-Men. Pre-internet it was difficult to find any new authors in a tiny rural town without much of a library. When assigned books to read in high school, though, I quietly loved reading them (Of Mice and Men in particular). Now, of course, I have more books than I’ll ever… Read more »

Lottie @ LottieIsWriting
Guest

Great post! I also can’t remember a time when I didn’t read.

Haley
Guest

I used to read purely for escapism but I find myself really drawn to history lately, I just want to know more and I had forgotten just how amazingly ‘fictional’ our own world can be!

Sam@WLABB
Guest

That’s quite an interesting journey you went on in your reading life. I have always read for escape. There were those years, when I had no time for pleasure reading, but once I picked up a novel again, I wanted to be left feeling happy .

Dora
Guest

“I read to find my home – because my home is sometimes the very act of reading.” this is so beautiful and I can relate so much!
Wonderful post, Evelina! ❤️

Satia
Guest

This ^^^^ So eloquent!

Aj @ Read All The Things!
Guest

Interesting discussion! I hated reading as a kid and refused to do it. I didn’t start enjoying reading until I discovered Stephen King as a preteen. Now, I mostly read to learn about the world. I don’t have the money to travel, so books are the second-best option.

Madeline Bartson
Guest

Oooh, I absolutely loved this post! First of all, the sloth gif is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen in 2019 so far. Second of all, I really love your point how the act of reading IS home sometimes — that really resonated with me. I also feel comfortable with a book, no matter where I am. It’s not like it’s a security blanket that I need, but reading is like going to my happy place, no matter what book I’ve picked up. Great post. <3

Lydia Tewkesbury
Guest

I love this post so much! Thank you for writing it – and being honest about your snotty reading phase. We have all been there! I tried to read On The Road so many times before I could admit to myself that Jack Kerouac was clearly a HORRIBLE person and I didn’t have to like him just because people said I should.

I really relate to a lot of your reasons for reading. I think these days it’s a mix of escapism, broadening my horizons and searching for answers.

Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
Guest

What a fascinating post! You’ve got me thinking about my reading journey now too. I know we had lots of kids classics when I was very young, then there was the pony stories phase – that probably lasted longer than it should have done, but I wanted to be a pony when I grew up so it was important to learn about gymkhanas and Pony Club! Then Georgette Heyer Regency romances interspersed with dark satanic Dennis Wheatley horror in my early-mid teens – all from Mum’s bookcase. She was my great reading inspiration. Like you I didn’t read as much… Read more »

Ruby @ Ruby's Books
Guest

I absolutely adore this post! My reading reasons and needs have definitely changed over the years. I went from needing a safe space to explore sexuality and erotic romance gave me that, to needing confirmation that women could do anything, be anything. Sure, my parents were great to me and told me that I could do whatever I wanted, but I was raised in one of those awesome families that of course they encourage their kids, of course they support them. I needed some outside perspective, though. I read a lot of Anne Rice as a teenager, when I wasn’t… Read more »

Sim @ Flipping Through the Pages
Guest

You might know, I wasn’t a reader always. The family I grew in or say the society doesn’t appreciate reading as just a hobby. Reading for us was just the school books. But yes, I always knew that I loved reading outside the school. I used to read novels during my journeys. But that wasn’t on a huge level. I started reading again just 2 years back because I wanted to make it my hobby. Reading gives me a kind of goal to achieve? I don’t know, now it’s like an important part of my life 🙂 Loved this post… Read more »

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[…] recommend me some books that are coming out that you think were amazing! And then you can find out why I read books at certain points in my life, and ask yourself the same […]

Amanda Shepard
Guest

I mostly read for escapism, and I think that has largely been the case for me. But I also read to connect myself with a community. This was true when I was in high school, I joined a book club, and it was true in college, through my department, job, and extracurricular activities. Reading helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone.

Andrea j
Guest

I read for escapism. It’s fun to fall into another world for a few days, to get swept up by beautiful prose, banter, fun action. I also enjoy reading because a book is a safe place for terrible and scary things to happen, and I can safely explore those feelings. In the last year or so, by no plan of mine, I’ve read a bunch of stuff where the narrator is an AI. weirdly, those books have helped me become a better person.

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[…] of all these posts, I feel like the one about Why We Read Books got the least love, for some reason. Would you go and check it out please? Thank […]

Rums the Reader
Guest

This was such a brilliant post and super engaging. I found like I could really relate to your different stages of reading and I find it so interesting how reading taste changes and adapts over time. Nowadays I read purely for pleasure, to dream and also to relate. I love Stephen Kings writing and while part of that is because I’m interested in horror or thrillers, I also love the more human aspects of his work. Even in IT, there’s a lot of emotion which really touched me. I love how reading can be such a transformative experience and that… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest

Ohhhh, I love this! I read for so many reasons: because I love stories, I love watching people conquer challenges and experience new things; I love escaping my fairly quiet life to places where exciting things happen; because I want to experience things and adventures and lives and ways of being that I would never be able to experience otherwise; because I want to know everything about everything and reading helps me do it.

Mostly I read because I can’t imagine NOT. 🙂

Amanda @Cover2CoverMom
Guest

This post was an absolute joy to read! I’ve never really stopped to think WHY I am a reader before… Like you, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader. There were periods where I didn’t read much, but I always came back. I think the reasons why you read (and what types of books you are reading) are always changing and adapting throughout your life. When I was working a high-stress job, I read very light & easy books because I was high strung from work. Now that I only work part-time and am a stay-at-home mom… Read more »

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[…] » Evelina @AvalinahsBooks asks why you read? ⇒ Have You Ever Wondered Why You Read Books? […]