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Why we read | Fresh Reads


Last updated 2/15/2019 at Noon

With the new year in full swing, we’re taken with an impulse to reflect, reassess and plot a new path forward. Whether it’s eating healthier or just simplifying life (thanks, Marie Kondo), we look to the new year for signs of hope, or at least more daylight.

In the spirit of reflection, I asked colleagues and myself a simple question: “Why do you read?” I hope that our responses will get you thinking about the value reading has for you. We welcome your comments when you visit us in person or our Facebook page.

Mary Kay has a framed print above her desk in the back room titled “The Ability To Read.”

It is a quote from James Russell Lowell: “But have you ever rightly considered what the ability to read means? That it is the key which admits us to the whole world of thought and fancy and imagination?

To the company of saint and sage, of the wisest and the wittiest at their wisest and wittiest moment? That it enables us to see with the keenest eyes, hear with the finest ears, and listen to the sweetest voices of all time?”

Reading opens and enlivens the mind, strengthens our character and inspires and elevates us; reading can supply the courage to reach further than we think we can.

Michelle found a quote by William Nicholson in the British periodical Simple Things: “We read to know we’re not alone.” Among other things this suggests is that reading is a companionable activity.

Also, the idea of returning to a favorite book in order to reassure ourselves that, at one point, all that mattered was that book, that voice, especially when the world feels upside down.

The magazine article goes on to say: “Finally, advice for anyone that has fallen out of reading and can’t get back. Don’t go for something everyone is saying is great.

Think: When you did read, what was your home territory? What did you love? Or, go to a bookseller or librarian, tell them three favourite books, and ask, ‘What’s the best thing I might not have heard of?’ Then trust them.”

Susan shared, “Freedom, to use my imagination, learn something new, experience new and old things and gain insight into myself and others.”

We are fortunate to belong to a community where the impulse to explore and inhabit other lives, other times and other places is limited only by what we haven’t yet read.

Elaine responded, “...because that’s how I was raised.” Indeed, avid readers are often early readers, and were comfortable with and perhaps lucky enough to be surrounded by books as children.

Consider that in the Edmonds area there are three bookstores and a great library, in addition to a robust selection of specialty, gift and travel books at several nonbook outlets.

We are surrounded by opportunities to engage with new subjects and gain insight.

Ron wrote, “Basically I read because I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. In other words, it’s an addiction. Much like other addictions, I get nervous, anxious and just plain bad tempered if I don’t have something to read. Sometimes I read fiction strictly for the plot, and other times I read for style. Hopefully the two will intersect in that sweet state of reading bliss akin to nirvana.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

As for me, in one important sense I read to hear the author’s words in my voice in my head (sometimes I read to myself out loud), to pay attention to the sounds and sentences rolling forward to take me away from other cares and distractions.

The weaving of the very words, blending vernacular language, imparting information subtly or not, the collision of consonants and vowels and pronunciation, altogether are the magic of good writing.

Especially attentive reading, whether a poem or a mystery by a favorite writer, or a well-crafted essay or piece of journalism, takes me toward a meditative state. Upon finishing, or putting the book down, I experience a reawakening back to temporal awareness.

And sometimes my mind involuntarily disengages and wanders away from the text to something more mundane. Such as the day’s shopping list.

A note on audio books

Edmonds Bookshop is proud to partner with Libro.fm, an Edmonds-founded audio book distributor that provides a full line of audio books exclusively through independent bookstores. Audio books are ideal companions for road trips or those lengthening commutes. Visit the store, our website (edmondsbookshop.indielite.org) or Libro.fm for more information.


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