Why we read

A few months ago, my mother clipped an article out of the paper for me with the compelling title Why we (still) read. The author was Robert Fulford, a long-time and well known Canadian journalist.

Fullford discusses the benefits of reading and the way “books work on us”. Several bits stood out for me. The first is a quote taken from Mark Kingwell, a professor of philosophy:

..in reading books we construct our unique selves: “There is no self without reading.” Without the inner discourse that reading makes possible, self hardly exists.

Keith Oatley, emeritus professor at the University of Toronto has written Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction. Oatley’s research

..convinces him that reading at its best enhances the quality of empathy.

Fullford goes on to say:

Literature deepens life by making us compare our own inner life with the lives we read on the page.

And his conclusion?

We often hear that the busy interconnected lives of the 21st century have robbed us of stillness and solitude, the traditional setting for serious thought. One solution to this problem lies in literature. Books that demand and repay close attention can create a private space around the reader. It’s a kind of solitude without loneliness.

Wonderful reasons to read and equally wonderful reasons to write.

7 thoughts on “Why we read”

  1. Is the full article available? I can’t seem to find it on the web. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    1. Hi Cathy – thanks for stopping by. I’ve had a look also. The article appeared on December 24, 2013 in the National Post (a Canadian newspaper). I can’t find a link to it. I do still have the full article in paper form and could scan it for you if you are interested. Send me an email mktod [at] bell [dot] net.

  2. I like the basic idea of “..in reading books we construct our unique selves: “There is no self without reading.” Without the inner discourse that reading makes possible, self hardly exists.” – but surely this is too modern a perspective. Do we really think that humans before the invention of writing had hardly any self? Or that illiterate people in any age (including our own) have hardly any self?

    Surely the issue revolves not around the act of reading/writing, but around the act of storytelling and imaginative engagement with the story?

    I’m very glad I have the opportunity to read (and write) but we don’t have to look far away in time or space to find humans with unique selves who can do neither.

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