Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why You Read

Today's Booking Through Thursday asks:

I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?

Well that's a statement! A bit accusatory towards readers if I do say so myself! So let me see if I understand this statement correctly: if I am reading, it's because something is lacking or insufficient in my life because the modern world offers so many other, and he is assuming, better pleasures? Uh, I think not!

I read because it relaxes me. I read because it takes me to other worlds, other lands, other people, other experiences, other histories, that I could never know without books. Yes movies are often made of them, but we all know that movies are never as good as the books (so there's strike one against Sven and his modern age)! I read because as a child it was a way to be constantly learning and going new places. I read as an adult because I am in front of a computer all day and when I come home I don't want to be. Does it need to be more complicated then that, Sven? I read because I love it, pure and simple.

Why do you read?


  1. Great answer! I think most of us "insufficient" readers would probably agree with you. I understand what he was trying to say, but I think Birkerts chose his words very poorly. Here's my answer.

  2. Brilliant answer! Mine is here:

  3. I wish there had been a little more to this quote to see what the full context was. I am not sure if the author meant it to be derogatory towards readers. I thought the 'insufficiency' arose from a reader's desire to experience more, know more, gain more, grow more, etc. which would imply a certain degree of lack in one's life (i.e. one lacks the experience of a foriegn land, so could read a book to gain that experience...or one lacks a certain skill, so could read a book on mastering said skill). Just figuring out the meaning of the quote would be a great topic of conversation:)

  4. I agree with you. I read because it relaxes me, takes me to places I have never been and might not have a chance to go to, I learn new things, and I just flat out enjoy it. I don't read to escape my life is plenty good as it stands!

  5. all great thoughts!

    that quote has a lot of people thinking and discussing. That's what books do!

    here's mine (short and sweet)


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