Recently I took a poll. A question came to me after I read a passage that got me thinking about why we read, and why we give up on reading.
I read the following words by Simon Van Booy:
“I wonder if we all feel that our lives are growing ever noisier, that there are constant distractions, that quiet contemplation is harder to come by. I have begun to abandon books midway, or sooner, when they aren’t feeding my inner life in some way—either by magnificence of language, depth of thought, power of storytelling, or dissemination of information. Or, occasionally, all of the above. I read across genres, across history, looking for the books that sweep me into a consciousness and a world not my own.”
I noticed that Van Booy lists four characteristics of a book that draws him into a conscious world and keeps him going. I kept thinking about this, so I decided to take a poll.
I asked the following question:
“Which do you seek the most when you read?”
a) language that stands out
b) provoking thought
c) powerful story
d) helpful information
Of those who responded, none said a or d.
A third of responders said b, “provoking thought.”
Two thirds of them said c, “powerful story.”
Like Van Booy, I’ve found a reason to keep reading a book in each of these. Sometimes I want to finish a book because I’m so drawn to its unique language that I just want to taste more of it. Other times the information is so pertinent to what I want to know or understand that I keep plowing through.
But it seems like for most people, neither of these is enough. Most people are mostly seeking either a solid story or a deep idea. Clever word use and researched facts can delight. Even more so, a well told story or an earth-shattering idea are irresistible.
I like to see all four of these ingredients, if possible. I like a good story, but I need the author to try and be original with word use. At the same time, cutely arranged words annoy me if I can’t follow the tale. Info is dull without a purpose, but without proof no idea is very powerful.
I wonder, do people read less because we’ve lost touch with what draws us into reading? Or is it just a matter of finding a way to scratch these itches elsewhere?
What do you think? Continue the poll. What do you seek most in a book? What is the deal maker for you? Why do you quit?