I’ve never understood people who say they don’t have time to read.
No time to read? To me that’s like not having time to breathe. It just doesn’t compute.
Every single one of my report cards in elementary school commented on my voracious reading habit. My mom’s main complaint when I was a kid was that I always had my nose in a book.
Like Rory on “Gilmore Girls,” I take a book with me wherever I go. I can’t imagine being stranded without something to read.
The walls in our house are lined with shelves, overflowing with books.
Stacks of books teeter next to and under my bed, by my reading chair next to the fireplace, in my office.
I write down names of books to get when I hear them on NPR or read reviews in magazines.
I have (almost) totally accepted the fact that I will never be able to read all the books I have on my never-ending to-be-read list.
So, why do I read so much?
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”
~ Joyce Carol Oates
It turns out that all that reading has probably made me a more empathetic person. A study suggests that not only do we feel empathy for characters as we read, but that reading might have long-lasting positive effects on our brain biologically, heightening activity in certain parts of the brain increasing our capacity for empathy.
“We read to know we’re not alone.”
~ William Nicholson
I remember reading Anne Lamott’s essay, “Mother Rage” about how our kids can push our buttons like nobody else and that motherhood isn’t all rainbows and unicorns—that it might actually suck much of the time. It was so liberating hearing another mom talk about the dark side of motherhood, the side that there isn’t a Hallmark card for. It made me feel less alone in those moments of sleep-deprived, parenting-a-toddler-and-newborn despair.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”
~ George R.R. Martin
Through books I’ve traveled the world from Paris to the Congo. I experienced the loss of parents, children, spouses, friends, jobs, health, dignity and dreams. My own life is enlarged by the stories I read.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
~ Stephen King
I’m not sure If I became a writer because of my love of reading, or if I read because of my love for writing. The two have always been inexorably tied together, nourishing each other (and myself). I read a sentence that blows me away and it sends me to my own blank page. If I am stuck in my own writing I read how another writer has handled structure or plot or setting.
Books are my constant companions and teachers.
“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”
Reading is entertaining. It is fun. But not only is it an amusement, reading expands our perceptions, opens our minds and increases our brains’ capacity for empathy. And in these divisive times, the world can certainly use more empathy.
So, I will continue being a bibliophile— a passion that broadens my worldview, lessens any loneliness or isolation, helps my own writing and entertains the hell out of me.
Then, when I do manage to raise my nose out of a book, I’ll be able to look at the world around me with fresh eyes and a brain newly wired for connectivity and empathy. It’s a win/win for everyone.
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Author: Kim Haas
Editor: Emma Ruffin
Photo: Sam Greenhalgh via Flickr
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