What motivates us to read?

by Marissa Matton

After reading Leonce Gaiter’s post “Why men opt out of the (women’s) fiction world,” I started to consider the different motivations people have for reading.

Everyone reads for different reasons–whether it be because they enjoy it or because they have to. As a student, it seems like I fall into the latter category more often. Having a lot of my time devoted to assigned reading just makes the time I do get to spend reading for pleasure all the more important.

Reading has always been a favorite pastime of mine. There is nothing I enjoy more than being able to escape into a good book. Reading as a means of “escape” is something Leonce and I both agree on. How we are drawn into the books is where our agreement ends, however. In order to really enjoy a book, I need to feel some sort of connection–with a character, situation, location, something. Leonce, on the other hand, doesn’t “approach fiction to re-visit this world”.

I can understand that–I certainly don’t want to read about my own life over and over again. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy drawing connections between my life and what I read. Leonce uses the example of Harry Potter. I grew up with Harry and co. Despite how much I may have wanted that to be my life, I didn’t belong to Harry’s magical world. Dragons, potions, and spells have weren’t relatable, but I could connect with Hermoine’s bookish personality, which made it all the easier to feel like I was part of the book.

Leonce calls for “worlds recreated and re-imagined, instead of rehashed”. I can see the risk of relatable worlds feeling ‘rehashed’, but I don’t think a ‘recreated world’ has to be exclusive from familiarity. Familiarity in literature is the greatest strength of the Changing Lives Through Literature program. When students are able to relate lessons in the stories to their own lives, they begin on the path of change.

When I started to think about my reading habits, I had to break the down between my two motivations. Like I said, as a student, a lot of my current reading is assigned rather than chosen. I think because I’m not actively deciding those pieces of literature are worthy of my time, it’s necessary for me to find some way to situate myself into the stories. Otherwise, I’m more likely to view the reading as forced upon me.

I don’t know if this variation in opinion is because of gender, like Leonce claims, or some other difference between us, but I am curious. So, I turn this conversation over to you now. What motivates you to read? Would you rather read about something you know or ditch this world all together? Perhaps a combination of the two?


7 thoughts on “What motivates us to read?

  1. I think I fall somewhere in between. I don’t want to read about “this world” exactly, but I like being able to picture myself in the book. That’s usually a lot easier if I can sympathize with a character or situation.

  2. It could all depend on the type of genre you enjoy. But then again, there are lessons to be learned everywhere. Like you said, CLTL works because the students are able to learn from the characters and their situations.

  3. That’s a great point, Richard. Preferences in genre could make a big difference. The worlds presented in fantasy are far different from the “real world”. On the other end of the spectrum, when you pick up a work of nonfiction, you know to expect the real world.

    – Marissa

  4. Melissa, I understand. I think part of the problem is the ambiguity behind “this world”. Does that mean a person’s exact situation in life, the modern world, anything realistic, etc? If we were to think of “this world” in the strictest sense, I don’t think anyone would want to read about their world over and over again.


  5. I think it is true, as many say, that the book reads us as much as we read the book. I like to read books that seem to invite me into the conversation.

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