Thursday, June 19, 2014
Why & How I Read
For some odd reason, as I woke up this morning, I was thinking about why I read so much. Other people have hobbies that they don't seem to obsess over, or take up all their free time doing, so why does it seem that I'm reading so much right now. Hell, you don't see every stamp collector starting a blog to glorify his hobby, so why was it so important for me to do it? Reading is the one constant of my day to day life, other than the consumption of food. If I'm not at work, or doing some other activity that precludes the act of reading, I'm reading.
And it's nothing new. When I was a kid, there were times, even in summer, when I would rather read than play outside. One summer, I was convinced that I would rather read my great-grandmother's collection of Encyclopedia Britannica than be outside. They had to force me to go play. A lot of that had to do with my childhood. We moved a lot, and when I mean a lot, I had lived in more places by the time I was in 5th grade, than most people live in their entire lifetimes. And that's not even talking about all the places and schools I went to when we were traveling with a carnival for three years, or the time we spent living with a biker gang in Washington state.
Because of all that, it was hard for me to relate to people my own age. We never stayed around long enough for me to make real friends, and when I did, it wasn't that long before I would have to say goodbye. When we were with the carnival, that happened every two weeks for the majority of the year. Books were constant though. Whether or not they stayed the same over the years, I always had stories and characters I could escape into, that would be there for me when nobody else could. In essence, books became a companion and my best friend.
As an adult, while they don't serve the same function anymore, books are still a vital part of my life. I don't need them to be my friends now, I have enough of those, but I do use them as my greatest resource for stress relief. When I was in my twenties, I still read a lot, but I used going out, and dancing became my main way to get rid of stress. Lot's of sex helped in that area too, but that's what gay guys in their twenties do. For that matter, that's what too many men still do, way into their thirties and forties. I out grew all of that though, and I found myself gravitating back towards books. It's the time spent in a new world, surrounded by new and familiar characters, that seems to keep the outside world from getting to big to handle. The pages of a book are where I go to be myself again, the self I want to be, without all the stress and cares weighing me down.
It's the way I read a book that allows this whole process to happen. It doesn't matter what genre the book falls into, or whether or not it's fiction or non-fiction, I read them all as if I'm reading a memoir or a history book. It could be my favorite Agatha Christie mystery, The Last Herald Mage trilogy by Mercedes Lackey, one of the best historical fiction books I've ever read, or even the best general fiction book I've ever read; I read them all as if I'm reading a fantastic biography of an even more fantastic person.
It's the way I'm able to get into the story, to take it all in, that allows reading to be the perfect stress relief. I have to believe in what I'm reading, if it doesn't come across as true, I lose interest. When I'm reading about Randy Dreyfus, he feels as real to me as Neil White. It's the whole reason why I have so much fun with my Favorite Fictional Character feature, it's because they are real to me when I'm spending time with them. Dagny Taggart is no different from George Washington or Kamila Sadiqi for me, at least not when I'm reading about them. It's that willing suspension of disbelief that allows the pages of a book to pull me in, and lets me forget about everything else. It's the way I need to read in order to truly enjoy it, and allow it to keep me sane.