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Five Reasons Why We (Should) Read

by Auburn Rutledge
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readingfeetI'll premise this post with a caveat: I have a natural predilection for reading. I have never not been a reader. And I'm also a brutal reader. I read in swift, short strokes, page conquering, digging for humor and drama and eccentricity and meaning, and if I don't find it, I'm an unforgiving critic. On the other hand, books I love make me glow, and babble with enthusiasm at anyone who will listen.

I've come to expect a certain something from books. I read them because I want to look beyond the confines of my life and my psyche. I can be somewhat of an escapist fanatic, and books are my fix. It comes as no surprise that despite my increasingly busy schedule in a post-college world, I have found time for more pleasure reading than I ever did during my college years. I graduated and began looking for work in the midst of a growing economic recession, and my outlook tumbled back and forth between hopeful enthusiasm and dark depression. Few things provide a more immediate cure for the latter than a good book.

The National Endowment of the Arts has reported that the percentage of adult Americans reading has increased from 47 percent to 50 percent as of 2008, the first increase in the over two and a half decades since the NEA began its survey of adult literacy. That being said, the American public still by and large does not read nearly enough (half of all adults reading means that the other half of adults aren't reading). And in times such as these, there are five reasons they should:

  1. Reading Enlightens & Stimulates Your Mind. Pick a topic, any topic. There is a book out there about it. Regardless of genre, you are discovering something new, different, strange, interesting--be it a technique to save money, every yoga position that has ever existed, how to build a treehouse, or what it means to be a Wiccan. Reading also challenges you to think, to be actively engaged and to process information. It is learning, regardless of whether you are flipping through War and Peace or a Biology textbook or a Harlequin romance or a comic book. People have sometimes asked me why I am "smart." It's not because of an extremely high IQ or because I'm a prodigy. It's because I read. A lot.
  2. Reading is Therapeutic. "Curling up with a good book" (books on e-readers and laptops most definitely included!) can be the epitome of rest and relaxation in what has become an increasingly hectic modern life. Reading lets you shut out the rest of the world and focus only on what is in front of you: an engaging story. I prefer sitting in a corner of the couch with a hot cup of tea and my cat at my side, but that's me. There is much to be said for an evening of reading versus an evening of grim national news in bright red capital letters on CNN. We know things are bad. The question is, what can we do for ourselves to stay focused, healthy, and positive?
  3. Reading Saves Money. Think of the purchases that modern Americans make to entertain themselves, and how much it costs them to do so. Video games. DVDs. Movie tickets. Eating out. Or . . . books. My sister bought me a 400-page, $7.99 fiction paperback for my birthday. At an average of 1 page a minute, that's over six hours of entertainment. The vast majority of books aren't expensive, make great gifts to others or to yourself, and are recyclable (err, re-readable). Plus you can always check out books at the library for that magic word: free. The New York Times reports that even through a recession, book sales in Europe continue to grow. Shouldn't it be the same here?
  4. Reading Supports the Arts & Education. You don't have to be a patron for a famous museum to support the arts or donate millions to a school to support education. Buy a book (or ten, or a hundred, or a thousand), and you support not only the author, but the bookstore, the publisher, the agent--every member of the industry that works to bring you more books, including those written specifically for education and those read by people of all ages to increase their knowledge. The more you read, the more opportunities you are presenting for writers to create new works for you. It's a cyclical process. The same applies for reading to children and having your teens read. They learn, they share what they learn, they encourage others to do the same, and pass on said traits when they become well-educated adults.
  5. Reading is Cool. No, seriously. As a culture we have become more accepting of nerdy, geeky, and intellectual pastimes. (Think Internet-surfing, blog-writing, videogame-playing, comic books, and the like). Reading is the penultimate expression of your interest in the new and unknown, in learning and discovering, in fantasizing and dreaming. When I was younger, toting a book in my oversized purse whenever I went out was the cause of much laughter among my friends. Now people scroll through books on their cellphones, no matter where they are. Reading evolves with us, and stays with us.
If you have any reasons we (should) read, comment and let us know!

Auburn Rutledge is a blogger for the big bad book blog and Sr. Publishing Assistant for Greenleaf Book Group, learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry one day at a time, and meanwhile labors at her own artistic endeavor: namely, the Great American Novel. Or Screenplay. Or something like it.

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