I know this is a departure from what I usually write about, but I’m hoping to spark a bit of a discussion here about something I love very much—reading. I got to thinking about precisely why I read back in August, when I spent some time with some sort-of relatives. The eldest is around my age, and we were quite good friends when we were younger. We were discussing books we’d read lately when the 15 and 12-year-olds piped up and proudly declared that neither of them had ever read an entire book, and that reading is stupid and dumb. I certainly hope they were exaggerating, but the fact that either of them thought it something to brag about is rather heartbreaking.

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Of course my initial instinct was to try and convince them that reading is awesome and fun (and definitely not stupid or dumb), but I found myself at a loss of words. It’s like trying to explain to somebody who is very unfit why exercise is fun. It’s a task that can seem arduous and silly to the uninitiated, but once you’re in, you’re hooked. Anyhow, since they were both so thrilled with themselves and their wilful ignorance they were sticking to their guns on the matter and weren’t at all interested in being persuaded otherwise. So, rather than argue with two adolescents about the benefits of something so fantastic, I took the opportunity to sit back, think about, and articulate why I read, and why I love it.

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I love to learn

I absolutely adore learning—being presented with new facts and ideas, and exploring how things work and fit together. Those wonderful “oh!” and “aha!” moments have inspired me to pick up and read many fantastic books. Plus, I feel like if you’re content wandering through life without learning anything new, then what is the point?

I love to explore new ideas

Books are a fantastic way to explore new ideas. Complete with interesting case studies, compelling testimonials, and a fat list of references at the back of the book, there’s nothing quite like working your way through a well written book that presents a new idea (or dozen) to you, and walks you through all the different facets of it. It’s like taking your brain to a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet. Yum.

I love to make connections

As you can imagine, I read a lot of books about the RMS Titanic. I’ve found you start to hit a sort of saturation point when you’ve read enough about a topic, and from there you can start to make connections and draw conclusions from your pre-existing base of knowledge. The confirmation of theses hypothesis is really quite satisfying, and I find facts I’ve puzzled out myself are always far more memorable.

It’s the easiest way to surround myself with people far brighter than I am

I love being surrounded by brilliant minds, but unfortunately they are relatively rare, and generally occupied with far more important things than simply hanging about with me at my cottage, chatting over a few beers (things like curing cancer and lecturing at universities). So, the next best thing (or at least the easiest) is to read one of their books. In that manner I can easily, and at my leisure, spend an afternoon (or twelve) with the likes of Robert Ballard, Richard Dawkins, Michael Pollan, and Malcolm Gladwell.

It’s like the “smelling the roses” version of learning

If you’ve got a question about something you can always just Google it, and I’m sure you’ll have your answer in no time flat. However, if you’re really interested in a topic, reading a book is an infinitely better way to get your answers. It may be a bit more roundabout than doing a quick search online, but you’ll get far more information and context. It’s like going to a buffet of all your favourite desserts instead of just grabbing one cookie quickly at the bakery.

So… why do you read? And how would you convince somebody who’s never read that they should give it a go?

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