Why I Read


By Dave Hood

I’ve often wonder why many people don’t read.  Each day, before dawn, before I begin my day at work, I rise to sip hot coffee, read the morning paper in solitude. I read to discover what is making news in the city, country, around the world. I begin by perusing the front page of the newspaper. Unexpected stories like the death of Lady Diana, 9/11, execution of Bin Laden are fascinating first reads to start the day. They’re a break from the routines of daily life.

I often turn next to the Sports Section to find out who scored the winning goal in the hockey game, who hit the home run to win the baseball game, who threw the winning touchdown in the NFL football game, whether a trade was made, and so on.

Then I’ll read what is of interest to me at any given moment in time. Sometimes I read the movie reviews to determine if I should pay $50 to buy tickets, coke and pop corn to watch the most recent movie. I rarely purchase a novel, work of creative nonfiction, or musical CD without first reading a review from the newspaper.

Sometimes, I read to learn if I should buy or sell my investments, whether the economy is growing, slowing down, what new products are being introduced into the market place, like another iPod, iPhone, iPad.

I often read to exercise my mind with the crossword puzzle, Sudoku, Word Smart. Completing the crossword puzzle is all about answering trivia and using logic to fill in the blanks. Completing Sudoku requires that I use logic and reasoning skills to fill in the numbers 1 to 10 on the vertical and horizontal squares. Finishing Word Smart is much simpler. You just search for words in a square made up of letters. So, unless your illiterate, it’s an easy way to clear the cobwebs from your mind.

I read the editorial and op-ed page to read the opinion essays, which provide a different view on some topic or issues in the news. The other day, I read an interesting profile on Osama bin Laden. This guy was evil incarnate. It’s difficult to imagine that this man had so much power to destabilize the world for 10 years.

At work, I often go online during my coffee break to read stories, opinions, views from Huntington Post. Or I’ll read CBC News to stay in touch with Canada, the place where I live. I’ll read the sport’s websites to find out the latest news on the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, NFL Lockout, and so on.

When I don’t start my day by reading the morning newspaper, I feel as though I’m living in a cave—out of touch with the world, disconnected from humanity. And often on these days, something important will make news—and I’ll be shocked to find out from an overheard conversation, or shared to me by an acquaintance or friend.

After work, my reading habits and tastes shift to the study. With the television on, I’ll sit, slumped in my lazy boy, with a rye, ginger ale on ice, read something like a book of poems, anthology of short stories, New Yorker magazine, a memoir, autobiography, novel, whatever is of interest to me.

My favorite magazine is The New Yorker. I love to read the poetry, short stories, personal essays, literary journalism, profiles, book reviews, movie reviews. Each week, I’m discovering something fascinating about a person, event, issue, pop culture. It’s the best magazine for the price. It’s so enjoyable, fascinating, stimulating that I spend $100 a year for a weekly subscription.

Presently, I’m reading three books: A book of short stories, a collection of poems, and a how-to book on shooting photographs. For me, reading is a way to continually learn. It’s better than taking a course at university.

Last week, I read Cormac McCarthy’s bestseller, Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Road.” By reading, I was transported to an apocalyptic world after some cataclysmic disaster. His writing, my reading, enabled me to imagine what it might be like to live in a world after a nuclear war.

Keeping a dictionary by my side is useful, too. Whenever I stumble over a new word, I look up its meaning in the dictionary, write it down, use it in a conversation. The other day, I came across the word “cornucopia.” Learning the meaning of new words is just my way of trying to be the best I can be. It’s self-directed education of sorts. Knowledge is power.

I often read to get my fix of information, stay informed, discover what is going on, to feel like I’m connected to the world in which I live. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what everyone is talking about at work, or not being able to share an intelligent answer about some issue, topic, event in the public consciousness.

I mostly read, though, because it’s one of life’ simple pleasures. All you need to begin reading is a good book, entertaining magazine, anything that motivates, inspires you to concentrate, turn the page, read on, to the end. You also require the ability to see, a quiet space, the capacity to remember words, phrases, sentences, a powerful imagination, understanding of language. With these tools, you can read anything— stimulating reads like the tome of “War and Peace”—or simple reads like  Peanuts by Charles Schulz, whose characters have become iconic images in American pop culture. A good comic strip has the power to make you smile, become amused, feel delight, even laugh.

Clearly, reading is one of life’s simple pleasures, a marvelous way to spend time by yourself, learn new things, enjoy quiet time, relax in solitude. I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with my life if I was unable to read. I’d certainly have a poor quality of life. I also cannot imagine why some people—-too many people—- don’t read the newspaper, book, magazine, or anything else, for that matter. Perhaps they don’t know how to read.

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