Why Do We Read?

I suppose this post isn’t specifically about Shakespeare. But I am assuming that many (most?) of us enjoy the subject so much that we don’t limit ourselves to waiting for a performance, and are pretty familiar with the text. Maybe not every play, but for your favorites, I’m assuming that you’ve read them. Probably closely, and probably more than once.

Why do we read?
Words, words, words.


I run a virtual bookclub at work (which is really just a Slack channel where I brain dump the audio books I go through on my commute at a rate of about 2-3 per week).  We were bouncing around recommendations and a coworker asked what kind of things I like to read. I said, “I like stuff that explores humanity’s place in the universe, and our purpose in life, if there is one.  How an individual’s actions and motivations affect everyone and everything around him.  If technology is involved, AI and stuff like that, all the better.  But that’s extra.”

In a previous discussion on the same topic, though, here’s what I’d told somebody:  “I like books where you feel changed at the end. Most books I read, I’ll forget.  Sure they were entertaining for a little while, but if they don’t leave me with something that I’m going to carry with me, I don’t feel like I got anything of value out of it.”  I’m trying to figure out if that is the same answer or the opposite answer.

Either way, I got to wondering if the same logic applies to my love of Shakespeare, and I believe that it does.  Tell me that Hamlet and King Lear don’t perfectly fit both my answers above?  I tend to trivialize the comedies (just like I would for movies or television shows), but even a Midsummer or Much Ado has a certain depth that touches on what I’m seeking.  I don’t get that from Love’s Labour’s Lost, or All’s Well That Ends Well.  Maybe that’s personal opinion, or maybe there actually is something in one play that’s not in another that strikes a universal chord.  Who knows.

What’s your story?  Why you do this? What do you get out of it?


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