Booking Through Thursday: Why You Read

btt button The Booking Through Thursday question for this week is:

Suggested by Janet:

I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:

“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?

I’ve had to read this quote through several times. I often wish the questions were posted a day or a week beforehand to give more time to process them.

If I am understanding the quote correctly, I disagree with it, especially with traveling and reading being “a comment of sorts about the place one has left.” Travel is not always about insufficiency or dissatisfaction and does not always mean I don’t like where I am. There are multitudes of reasons to travel, but for me personally, I love most coming back to home base.

Reading is not escapism in the sense that there is something missing from life that I am trying to find in books. It does open up new horizons and allows me to visit places and people that I would not otherwise, it causes me to think and to process, but to me it is about enrichment, not insufficiency. There may occasionally be a book I read out of a felt need for the contents, like Changed Into His Image or How To Say No To a Stubborn Habit. And I “need” to read in the sense that that’s how I am stimulated mentally and intellectually and often spiritually.

On the other hand, reading us also partly about personal growth, so in that sense I can see the idea of movement. But I guess the word “insufficiency” bothers me here. You can have a plant that is fine in itself, but you can do things to it to enrich it, make it hardier, more fruitful, etc.

I don’t know — I guess I am still processing this one! It will be interesting to see what the others participants have to say.

8 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Why You Read

  1. I don’t think the quote is confusing. It made me a little mad when I first read it, though.

    I love your point about coming home being the best part of travel!

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