Jennifer's Journal


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why We Read

In a Sunday New York Times book review essay, The Plot Escapes Me, novelist James Collins admitted he often can’t remember the contents of the books he reads. He maintains that we read for the aesthetic and literary pleasure, yes, but also to learn something or to be changed in some way by the experience. His question then is, “Why read books if we can’t remember what’s in them?”

Well, he does have a point; I don’t always remember the books I read, either. But then I don’t expect to recall the details of more than a handful. I read to be entertained, to fill leisure time without resorting to television. I read to escape from the stress, disappointments and griefs of life. An added bonus is the euphoria that comes when I’m engrossed in a good story, that uplift of pure happiness caused by the release of endorphins as the brain relaxes. Like a cavewoman huddling near a leaping fire while listening to a tale, I glory in the story that will allow me to forget the cold and the wolves outside.

If a book can do that, isn’t it enough?

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