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.)