BTT: Why You Read

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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?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Interesting quotation, but I don’t agree with the last bit at all.  I don’t believe that reading has any correlation with insufficiency of life.  Sure, at times when I’m upset or have had a bad day and just need to escape the world I’ll pick up a book and lose myself and my troubles in the pages, but I could have the most fulfilling and exciting life and I’d still be a book addict. 

I do, however, completely agree that to read is to travel across space and time and that’s one of the things I love most about it!  And just as the life and times of a writer will affect the tone and themes of a book, so too will the experiences of the reader.  Books are everchanging.  Even though the words remain the same, I could read a novel now and twenty years from now and it will probably mean something completely different to me.

Everyday I look forward to heading off toward an infinite number of “elsewheres” and leaving reality behind, at least for a little while.  Reading, in essence, is like having super powers. 

So up, up, and away into unknown lands with strange and wonderful characters!

What’s your answer?



  1. Michelle Said:

    I agree that, at first blush, I didn’t think the last part of the quote was true. But, as you saw in my post, if “insufficiency” means a lack of any kind, then reading to learn more is technically filling an “insufficiency”!
    Thanks for visiting my blog!

  2. I don’t think that the use of “insufficient” in this quote is necessarily derogatory. Aren’t all our lives insufficient, if we are curious, enthusiastic, and energetic participants? One of the great joys of reading is to experience those things that we don’t, in a single, short lifetime, have sufficient time and ablity to experience first-hand.

  3. Jamye Said:

    I agree with both of you! I think when I read the quote my first reaction was to go on the defensive. 🙂 But that’s it exactly, to live thousands of lives and have countless experiences. Love it!

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