Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Reading Week in Review: Why I Read

This morning I saw a stand-up special on Comedy Central at the exact wrong moment. The comedian was talking about how much he hates books and reading, about how movies were made because the act of reading is so time-consuming and boring. I know it's just a schtick; this particular comedian plays the dumb redneck-type quite often. But it still managed to get me all riled up. Probably because I know too many people who actually do think this way. They don't understand hard-core readers because they find reading tedious. This always depresses me. I can't imagine going my whole life without books. I'd go insane! What do these non-readers do with their imaginations, their desires for entertainment? Do they even have imaginations? Yes, movies and TV shows tell stories. But they leave nothing to chance; there's no interaction. When I'm reading a book, I get the power to create the world the story inhabits. Not to mention all the beauties and intricacies of language that are missing from movies, and the fact that books are remarkable for being the vision of a single individual. Reading is important!

This week was full of great reminders about why I love books and reading, particularly fiction. I started off the week strong, with Marilynne Robinson's awesome wonderful fantastic novel, Home (which I won't go into since you can read about it below). Then I finished the week with Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief. Tinti's Dickensian novel did not have the striking style or potent language of Robinson, but it was extremely entertaining and completely wrapped me up in its story. The Good Thief centers around a one-handed orphan boy named Ren. Ren is "saved" from the orphanage by the mysterious and devious Benjamin Nab, who uses Ren to help him pull scams, including, eventually, grave robbery and body-stealing. They meet lots of interesting people along the way, and they have adventures both serious and hilarious. The book was a lot of fun to read and had a surprising emotional pay-off in the end. I'd easily recommend this to anyone who just wants to spend some hours immersed in a rousing tale.

That's why I read. Because I want to be inside a wonderful little world that both mirrors and distorts our own realities. Whether it's a world constructed of language, such as the one Robinson creates, or a world constructed of storytelling and tone, such as Tinti's, it doesn't matter. As long as it captivates me, makes me feel simultaneously inside and outside my actual world, and strikes some kind of honest emotional chord, I am extremely happy. Reading is my single greatest pleasure in life, and I hope you all often feel so enamored with it yourselves.

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