Thoughtful Thursday: Sarah Beth Durst asks “Why do you read?”

We’ve got Sarah Beth Durst with us today, author of several books we love. I’m currently enjoying her new book, Conjured, which will be released next week. Sarah’s got a fundamentally important question for you. One commenter will win a copy of Conjured. Thanks for visiting, Sarah!

Sarah Beth Durst

So here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately… Why do people read?

I have my big-picture generic answer, of course: we read because we need stories as desperately as we need air, food, and water. Stories are how we process, cope with, and/or escape from the world. Whether they’re told by friends, inside books, on TV, or whatever, they’re how we connect with other people, understand our past, and prepare for the future.

Plus, they’re awesome.

But on an individual level… Why do people read?

I think that the reason differs from person to person, and that it can be different for the same person at different points in his/her life… or even on different days of the week. I also think that the reason shapes a person’s experience of and opinion of a book as profoundly as the actual words on the page do.

For me, I read for magic. I read to be swept away on a journey, to experience an adventure, and to have that marvelous experience of closing a book and feeling as if the world is suddenly bigger and more wonderful than it was before. And the books that I love the most reflect that: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce, Deep Wizardry by Diane Duane, Jack the Giant Killer by Charles de Lint, etc.

Not-so-incidentally, that’s also why I write. I write to try to create magic, to cast a spell that will transport a total stranger to the cold halls of the Paranormal Witness Protection Agency and into the tattered red tent of a creepy carnival (Conjured) or to a dry desert land filled with wolves made of sand and sky serpents made of glass and gods who walk in human bodies (Vessel) or wherever my imagination takes me. I read and write to take that kind of magical journey.

So that’s my question for you today: Why do you read?


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KELLY LASITER is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

View all posts by Kelly Lasiter

11 comments

  1. I was going to say I read to be transported to different places, meet new and interesting people, etc. Then I thought that if I’m by myself somewhere, I really will read a cereal box or a pamphlet that’s lying around,even the rules on the Recycle container if there’s nothing else. I guess, for me, since I’m a visual person, it’s about taking in information. I read fiction mostly (not entirely) for a change of scene, but also for the music and magic of the prose.

  2. sandyg265 /

    I mostly read for a break from every day life. A good book can transport you anywhere to any time period and you can meet all sorts of interesting people.

  3. As most it is an adventure to be swept up in with all the wonderful environments and paradigms coalescing from the authors mind. There is imagery and intrigue along with plot lines yet discovered that will raise the hair on the back of your neck or give you goosebumps as you imagine the narrow escape the character just made with my mind whisking off to the various what ifs to yet come in the story.
    Another side pleasure is making up short fan fiction in my head. I have a bit of a drive to work, about an hour, which gives me time to indulge in fantasy driven either by the characters, ideas, plots or concepts of things I have read or am reading. My daughter’s bedtime stories came to me this way and we had such fun exploring characters and I relished being asked to make up more stories for certain characters that she loved, dragons more than anything.
    So reading in a nutshell is an extension, passion and fuel for my imagination to satisfy my thirst for the never ending story.

    BC

  4. Melanie Goldmund /

    Might as well ask why I breathe! In the same way that my lungs are always searching for oxygen, so my brain is always searching for written words. Like Marion above, I’ll read anything! (Well, at least once. And if I like it, I’ll read it again.) And like Marion again, that’s the way I take in information.

    But I also like reading fiction because it takes me away from my humdrum life and lets me experience something different, often something better. Or lets me think that my life, thank goodness, isn’t -that- bad.

  5. April /

    All of the above. But mostly I read because my life is so boring and dull and uninteresting and often stressful and depressing. While I’m reading – all that goes away. Of course, it always comes back and you have to deal with life as it comes no matter how much you’d like to ignore it, but taking breaks from it into someone else’s life is a relief.

  6. Sarah /

    I read because I can’t not read. I will read the shampoo bottle in the shower because it’s the only thing with words on it. Reading has always been my preferred form of entertainment. I have met so many friends between the covers of books. Packing for trips involves more time selecting books to take than clothes. I am a proud Bookaholic.

  7. My answer to that question could take up a lot of room, so I’ll try to condense it and be concise. I read because I love the feeling of exploring new worlds with new people. I love expanding my mind and encountering new concepts and cultures. I love the feeling of my eyes roving over words on pages. I like a little bit of escapism when my life gets a little too much to handle, so I can step back and deal with someone else’s problems for a while before I come back and deal with my own.

    I read because it’s awesome. And nobody will ever be able to convince me otherwise!

  8. Viki S. /

    I read to satisfy my imagination. I live a rather normal uneventful life and reading gives me excitement and happiness.

  9. A lot of these reasons resonate with me, too. When I read what Sarah Beth Durst said about magic and the world seeming bigger, I thought “yes, yes, that’s why I read” but then what Marion said about absorbing information made me say the same thing.

    I think those are the primary reasons I read, but I’m sure that sometimes there’s some escapism going on, too. I’m happy with my life situation, but a lot of that day-to-day contentment probably comes from having a life that’s low-stress enough that I have the time and resources to support my voracious reading habit. (So, I don’t know if it’s reading that lowers my stress, or a low-stress life that allows me to read so much.) (I hope that made sense.)

  10. I’m in the why do I breathe camp on this. It’s literally almost impossible to consider the act of not-reading.

    Pleasure?. But it can be an odd sort of pleasure (scaring oneself to death, purposely bringing oneself to weeping, being repulsed by human behavior).

    Escapism? Hmm, into the gritty impoverished world of the Indian slum? Into the gross inequality evident in some inner-city school?

    Intellectual stimulation clearly (and what is more stimulating than the list of ingredients and percentage of daily recommended dosages in a box of Maypo?)

    Maybe to keep the world new, to fall in love with it again and again, to see it differently in the way an author casts their own light on it, or to see it differently when I come out of the author’s light (or darkness) or to hover for at least a while in a wholly different world

    And a host of other reasons. I need an easier question, like “what is the meaning of life”

  11. BC, if you live in the USA, you win a copy of Conjured!
    Please contact me (Marion) with your US address and I’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!

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