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Escape, Entertain, or Enrich



I’ve been thinking a lot about why people choose the books they do. Most of my friends are readers both online and in real life. However most of my friends online read in very different genres from those in my real life (with exceptions of course.) And while I think it’s partly because I’ve made friends online with similar reading interests, it also speaks to my reason for making those friends.

I think most people read for three reasons (outside of being forced to read for school or work.) When we choose to read, we read to escape, entertain, or enrich. (Enrich is a very broad term to encompass most reasons outside the first two, by the way.) Many books will meet more than one of these reasons, and I think probably the majority of readers cross between reasons depending on what they need in their lives at that moment.

I only ever read for two of these reasons, though. I read to escape or enrich…and, generally, while I find learning and reading to expand my ability to take part in conversations is awesome–it’s not my go-to. I don’t read to enrich typically without forcing myself to. And, when I’m stressed, like I have been this year, I read to escape and get caught in obsessive patterns of escapist reading where I read obsessively in a genre or theme until the obsession plays out. My reading choices for this year have been 99% escapism.

I never read to be entertained. My OCD prevents that. I try to exercise too much control over my life to ever seek to be entertained. I don’t even watch TV to be entertained. I always watch it with a purpose. It’s partly why I don’t watch a lot of TV–unless there’s a reason.

Most of my friends in real life primarily read to be enriched. They want to learn or expand their horizons in some form. My view is, of course, limited to what they self-report so that could skew things. I’m not sure all of my friends would fess-up to what they’d view as shame-reading. Some of my IRL friends won’t even publicly admit to reading my books–because they fall in the romance genre. When we talk books, it’s generally books that could be read by our kids or by a book club–not the books you read to escape the stress of the day for a few hours.

I think many of my online friends read to escape, but, once again, my viewpoint is skewed possibly by the fact that the anonymity of the internet allows us to confess what we might not discuss in person. People on Twitter might be more willing to throw out the title of a book they read to procrastinate laundry instead of focusing on the book club book it’s taking a week and a half to read. In some ways, the internet itself is an escape–especially social networks, so, obviously it’s hard to dissect motive in muddied waters like that.

If you follow me on Twitter or FB, you might have noticed my life is a wreck right now. I might only read to escape for the remainder of the year. I want to make excuses for that because it makes me feel weak, but I’m holding on by my fingertips, and, outside of my immediate family, no one gets a say in what I read or how much I read. Besides, my motivation for reading really doesn’t speak to my intellect or abilities and I think it’s warped societal mores making me feel–even on some subconscious level–that it does.

My goal is to read 365 books this year, and I’ll make that easily…and I suspect 95% of them will be in romance or suspense genres. While there are brilliantly written books in those genres that will enrich my life, I need them to take me out of my life for a couple hours…desperately. If I can’t escape…if I can’t pretend this isn’t me or my life…I’ll go mad. And my obsessive need for that is beyond my OCD meds control.

So, what about you? Escape, entertain, or enrich? Do you mood read? How many books will you read this year? (By the way, I haven’t gotten around to putting most of my reads for this year on Goodreads–I’m tracking them in a doc. I should get on that, but…sigh…so much to do.)

7 Responses so far.

  1. I’m with you, Wendy. I seldom read strictly for the entertainment value of a book, but it’s hard to draw a hard line there. Even though I read to either escape or enrich, if the book doesn’t entertain me, I.e. if I don’t enjoy it, I’ll stop reading.

    Have you tried the OUTLANDER series yet? I just found out about it last June. So far there are eight hefty books in the series, plus some spin-off novels and novellas, so they might keep you busy for a while. (I’m afraid they would throw off your book-a-day goal, though.) They can’t really be placed in a single genre: romance, historical, and science fiction are the three top categories they fall under. They are escapist literature that is loaded with enriching historical detail, yet are amazingly engaging and entertaining. I’m on book 5 right now.

    (If you do decide to read it, fair warning: there’s quite a bit of Gaelic in it so if you’d like to hear the language, not just see it written, you might want to get a recorded version of the books as well. Just saying.) 🙂

    • I have the first in the Outlander series, but that book is LONG, and while I’ll admit I have a short attention span, I also have issues with a reading compulsion where I can’t put down a book once I start it. So, generally, I stick to books I can read in one sitting–typically at night when I can’t sleep. I top out at about 350 pages for that–and that’s pushing it. I prefer shorter books. But I’ve heard it’s a really good book so maybe during Christmas break I’ll go hide in a room and tackle it.

  2. writerggandrew says:

    I’ve never thought of escaping and being entertained as being that different from one another, but I see what you mean here, and I think I primarily read to escape, too. If a book or show isn’t grabbing me so much that it’s taking me out of my head–if I’m merely just entertained by it–I find myself wanting to read or watch something else. It’s probably partly why I often don’t finish classics or literary fiction and gravitate more toward genre fiction–those books are great at giving me that escape.

    You must be a superfast reader! I’ll get through about 50-60 books this year, though I mostly read at nights and am not a terribly fast reader.

    • I’m a really fast reader…when it comes to genre fiction. I read non-fiction, classics, etc much slower because there aren’t as many toss-out sentences that you can skim-read through. I also don’t sleep much. My insomnia is really bad right now. And, to top it off, my hands are in bad shape from arthritis so writing has been difficult–I have time to read–unfortunately.

      I think there’s a misunderstood value in reading to escape that I wish the world recognized. Genre fiction is often criticized as is the thought of escapism through reading, but with everything going on in the world right now, escaping for a few hours might keep some of us from going unhinged. And improving someone’s quality of life should always be something that society values.

    • It was very interesting to read your opinion on this information. I completely agree with your point of view. You completely gave my attitude to this subject.

  3. Kait Nolan says:

    For me escape and entertainment tend to be one and the same. And 95% of what I’m reading is romance of one ilk or another. The rest is probably research that I’ll turn around and use in one of my own romances.

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