Reasons to Read

From my point of view, there are four basic reasons people read: (1) for entertainment, which includes escaping reality; (2) for knowledge, or to learn about things they don’t know in some fashion; (3) for inspiration, and/or to think about matters in new or different ways; and (4) for occupational/scholastic necessity, although I’d hope scholastic necessity includes learning (which it doesn’t, unhappily, for all too many students today).

People also delude themselves about those reasons. Reading about cinema stars or the Kardashians, or reading tabloid stories about natural disasters and the like isn’t learning; it’s entertainment. And reading to obtain knowledge in order to use that knowledge to reinforce existing thought patterns is certainly reading for knowledge, but it doesn’t do much for thinking when the mindset is already ossified.

One of the great benefits of fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, is the best of books in these genres can not only entertain, allow a certain escapism, but also impart knowledge and spur thought. On top of that, they can provide income and a following for the critics who review them, although, from what I’ve seen over the years, a certain percentage of those critics neither learn anything from some books nor are able to think about what the book contained, but then they probably weren’t the best students, either.

In any case, F&SF at its best does all of the above, and at its worst still provides entertainment…and that’s not something you can say about an awful of aspects of society today.

So… keep reading.

5 thoughts on “Reasons to Read”

  1. R. Hamilton. says:

    Since the internet, I think there’s also reading not even as entertainment, but as a (relatively) low side-effect alternative to stupefying substances.

    Those of us who read fairly fast, and as an occupational hazard became accustomed to a constant flow of data, even when no longer working may still be trying to keep an eye on all sorts of news, events, interests, etc. I set up monitoring for my home computer network, simply because it looks like a much smaller version of what I babysat for years (while also doing other things). It is of course also somewhat useful, letting me spot what might need attention usually before it fails.

    I wouldn’t quite call it an addiction. But I rarely travel without a tablet or laptop, and almost never without a smartphone. I connect back home to run daily updates on my systems if I’m elsewhere. And I think a quiet offseason day on the beach would have me stir-crazy after a few hours.

    That’s even without social media. Add them in, and it’s a bit more (not that much, because I don’t use them heavily). Those who do use them heavily might have a similar issue, if somewhat narrower in scope.

  2. Robert The Addled says:

    The best is indeed when the first three can be accomplished at the same time.

    One of the best ways I’ve found for tech detox has been an international cruise. Roaming cellular is expensive, as is the satellite internet on the ship. Tablets/phones/readers (while traveling this way) to me don’t count as tech since they are easier to carry than multiple books.

    Second would maybe be camping/rural resort (no net or cell coverage) – assuming power, the same rules apply as cruising for such devices.

    Least favorite choice is a storm with extended power outage. Food storage is the big disadvantage to this method.

  3. Cam L says:

    When I was younger, Grade 6, I had a teacher who took it upon herself to get me into reading. I was one of those students that excelled at Math and Science (I was doing Grade 9 math to keep me interested) but spelling and grammar were not interesting to me; opening a book was painful. She introduced me to “The Hobbit” and that was the beginning of an amazing journey into worlds that Magicians like yourself create. I know my vocabulary has expanded and my writing skills have improved from that time so long ago.

    Every author has their style of world creating and character building. Some of those styles are loved and become TV shows or movies. Others are not and that is unfortunate. One of the things I truly love about your books and I am certain is one of the things that goes against you is your character building. I love it when your characters sit down for dinner, the discussions that occur explores a side of the characters that most authors never touch and I love and dislike when you discuss the food (makes me wish I could try it). 🙂

    Thanks for writing the way you do, for making the readers think, for the family dinners, for the more structured writing (not aimed for a person with grade 6 reading skills), for your characters and worlds.

    I have grown up with your books, I bought my first book of yours many years ago, “The Magic of Recluce”. It is beaten up, but still holding together from high school, to college and university, to my first job, wife, kids. My oldest is still about 8 years away from reading it, but he will and then he too can learn what I have over the years from you.

    So, in a round about way, thanks for being a great teacher and keep giving me reasons to read!

    PS, when is the next Recluce book coming? 🙂

    1. Heritage of Cyador, the last Recluce novel to date, is already out in ebook and hardcover, and will be out later this year in paperback. Recluce Tales, a collection of Reluce novellas and stories, mostly previously unpublished and original, will be out in early 2017. At present, I’m working on another Imager Portfolio novel. After that, we’ll see about more Recluce possibilities.

  4. hola says:

    Like most people, I read for the first two of your reasons, and SF&F take up a large portion of my reading time. My desire for inspirational reading is almost nil and I don’t need to read for scholarship anymore except as part of my entertainment or learning modes. I’ve also found that, as I get older, I need more than simplistic themes or the rehashing of far too familiar tropes: quests have been overdone, and the current fad for dystopian novels are, frankly, becoming rather boring (and when will this zombie fad end?) I like predictive scifi, I like both scifi & fantasy when the authors take a satiric or ironic view of our current situation (political, financial, and social). You do the latter very well. Thank you.

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