Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Reading

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

And here we are – once again – drowning in work and marking. Whose idea was it to run end of year exams for all students in all years in the same week?

So once more my To-Be-Reviewed list is backing up and I hadn’t even cleared the backlog previously! So I am going to start posting some holder mini reviews to try to catch up and to at least record my reading this year. Maybe just a quick plot summary and some star ratings… I’m not sure quite how yet… But I did update my reading spreadsheet and I have read 30 books so far this year – about to start my 31st… I had no idea I had read so many!

Anyway, it is a bit of a relief to realise that this might be a slightly shorter post this week: reasons I love reading. Why would I rather turn off the television and pick up a book… why do I find it incomprehensible that more people don’t?

The primary reason is probably that

I cannot imagine not reading

But ten other reasons follow…

Escapism

This was perhaps the fundamental reason when I was younger.

The world I lived in as the son of the local village solicitor and school secretary was so intensely middle class and secure and safe. And I craved the colour and danger and risk in increasingly fantastical worlds as I progressed from The Famous Five to The Hardy Boys to The Hobbit and Narnia. I remember that the boredom of long coach journeys on school trips were relieved by David and Leigh Eddings’ Belgariad; that the long stretches of time with nothing to do on canal boat holidays with my parents were eased with Trudi Canavan’s The Black Magician.

On the subject of escapism, I do love this quote by J. R. R. Tolkien

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

Characters, Characters, Characters

Books catapult you into the lives of so many new characters – allow you to become so many new characters in ways that film and gaming just cannot!

And out of everything else that makes a novel or a narrative, character is key for me!

I can read novels with almost no plot, but fall in love with the characters and want to spend time with them; and equally a badly crafted character can put me off a book very very quickly! Agnes in Hamnet, and coincidentally another Agnes and another mother in Shuggie Bain, Jean Swinney in Small Pleasures spring to mind from this year’s reading; and so many more – oh Cyril Avery in The Heart’s Invisible Furies! – through the classics. Flawed heroes (Beowulf, Sir Gawain) and seductive villains (Dracula) and everything in between has driven every great narrative!

Exploring New Places

As you can tell, I love fantasy and reading gives me a chance not to simple escape this world but to explore new ones! Narnia, Middle Earth, Krynn, Discworld, Earthsea, Scadriel and Roshar,

And often to discover maps of them! I remember when I was at school and was writing a fantasy story, I’d spend hours making maps and colouring them in!

And of course, we can explore real lands too, places we might one day be able to visit of we are lucky: in my reading I have travelled to the Arctic and the Caribbean, to Nigeria and to America, to Ireland and to Japan, to China and to Transylvania.

Exploring the Past

Because of course books do not simply let you travel in space but also in time. Books really are the TARDIS!

Discovering the past is one way to consider how we got to be where and who we are now and books offer so much scope to do this!

From World War Two settings of The Book Thief and All The Light We Cannot See and Anne Frank’s diary; to the fog-bound streets of the nineteenth century in Dickens and Stephenson and the moors of Wuthering Heights, to the magic of The Night Circus; to Tudor England of Wolf Hall and C J Sansom; to the Greek heroes of The Iliad and The Odyssey, of The Silence of the Girls and Circe.

Reading Is Subversive and Dangerous

Who do totalitarian states lock up first? The academics – thinkers and readers – and the writers. Banned books lists are fascinating reading!

And novels are all embedded in the worlds that create them and therefore are all political creatures. From the obvious and bombastic socialism of An Inspector Calls and Animal Farm to the anti-totalitarian 1984, the feminism of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Bloody Chamber to the anxiety in the heart of Ali Smith’s The Seasonal Quartet begun as we voted on Brexit and concluding as covid and BLM swept through the UK. Whether it be the dystopias that feed on our fears of climate change, nuclear apocalypse or controlling governments or child soldiers or the racism veiled in a fantasy novel, it is hard to conceive of a book that is not subversive.

The Beauty of Language

So many books are so beautiful in their language: lyrical or muscular or sensual…

Books like Girl, Woman, Other or The Starless Sea or 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World or Lanny or Ali Smith’s The Seasonal Quartet do extraordinary things with language. Exquisite and extraordinary.

Reading Shows Us Ourselves and We Matter

Representation.

It is so important that we see ourselves in what we read – whether that is seeing characters with similar disabilities to ourselves, with similar racial heritages, from similar classes, with similar gender identities, with similar sexualities to us.

Because people like us matter enough to write about too!

Had there been more representation in literature just twenty five years ago – and less AIDSphobia – an entire generation might have been more comfortable with their sexuality. I would have been.

So a rousing name check to Cinderella Is Dead, The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet, One Last Stop, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, The Black Flamingo and Clap When You Land – and so many many more LGBTQIA+ heroes of representation

Reading Heals My Poor Battered Heart

Let’s face it, the last two years were tough.

Really tough.

I count myself blessed that I have lost no one but I know too many who have.

And with the increased anxiety and fear and restriction on our lives, my reading habits changed. I turned to feel good books. Because they were one of the few things – apart from my wife and daughter’s hugs and laughter – which could still manage to make me feel good.

So a grateful shout out to Casey McQuiston – totally a genre I would never have read but for the pandemic! – for Red, White and Royal Blue and One Last Stop and T J Klune for The House In The Cerulean Sea.

And even when we need to confront our darker emotions rather than try to put them on one side, books are there to validate how we feel and to lead us through the darkness… Two of the most powerful response to grief I have ever come across are H Is for Hawk and Grief is the Thing With Feathers.

Reading Is Simply Fun

For all of the seriousness above, reading is a riot!

It can be political and satirical and beautiful but it will often be simple fun as well, and often simple fun is more than enough.

The Locked Tomb trilogy – Gideon the Ninth – by Tamsyn Muir is one example from my recent reading.

Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space

Who would not want to read this?

And Finally… Books Feel and Smell Great

Yes I know that most of my reading is electronic these days… but the weight and texture of a great book in your hands, the softness of the paper, the fineness of it and the smell of old books…

Yes it is a cliche but it is also true….


And so in the words of Tyrion Lannister, “That is why I read so much, Jon Snow”!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • July 13: Book Titles That are Questions
  • July 20: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)
  • July 27: Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island
  • August 3: Titles or Covers That Made Want to Read/Buy the Book
  • August 10: Secondary/Minor Characters Who Deserve More Love
  • August 17: Favourite Places to Read
  • August 24: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time
  • August 31: Fictional Crushes

17 comments

  1. Great list! I love what you said about escapism – I was very lucky and grew up in a very safe and privileged environment so, like you, books were the things I turned to so I could embark on dangerous adventures and meet new people from all walks of life.

    Like

  2. Yes to all of these but particularly the book smell! Nothing is better than that haha! I also really like you’re reason that books are subversive and dangerous. I’ve not seen anything like this on any of the other TTTs today, but it’s so true.

    Liked by 1 person

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