This is somehow going to be the hardest That Artsy Reader Girl topic ever. It shouldn’t be because there are so many reasons why I love reading, but that’s it right there, that’s why it’s the hardest. How do you narrow down something so monumental into ten reasons? And they’re definitely not going to be my top ten of all time, nor are they going to be in any specific order because HOW and WHAT and NO. That’s too much, let’s give it a shot!
It’s an escape.
I mean, I think this is the most obvious one of them all, but it’s been especially relevant in the last two or so years, so it really feels important to think about. I keep pretending I’m all shocked that I’ve been in a fantasy-only mood for the entirety of 2021, but I’m really not. 2020 was a trash fire, and it really pulled me away from nonfictions almost entirely and contemporaries in a big way. I recently tried to drop back into contemporaries for Pride, and, suffice to say, my July TBR is almost entirely fantasy again. It’s just–when the world is literally falling apart around you, it’s nice to be able to quietly step inside a world of magic and wonder and let yourself get lost there.
Look, far be it from me to say that reading is amazing because dragons exist just because they’re extinct now (fight me, I dare you), but my dudes, dragons exist. Single-handedly the coolest thing about reading is that, whether you’re in an alternate world or smack dab in your own, there’s the possibility for dragons, and that is just next level amazing. Growing up, I was enamored with dragons, as most younglings are, and I was so angry at people like Tolkien and Weis & Hickman for always being so mean to their dragons. I didn’t necessarily cheer when Smaug went hellish on Dale, but I was over the moon excited about his chapters in The Hobbit. And, truly, Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle was the thing of dreams for me, and it was just everything and more that I wanted in life because dragons as best friends? YES PLEASE.
Connection with my dad.
My mom tells this hilarious story from my infancy. She was a waitress while I was growing up, and when she went back to work, she was going on and on about how my dad had to mimic the maternal experience while he was taking care of me. All these things about how to pretend breastfeeding and take care of me. When she got home from work, she peeked in the window, and he was holding me like a football, off to the side, watching Godzilla. And honestly? That pretty much describes my entire upbringing. My dad had action figures in place of tools on the tool wall in the basement. He had boxes of comic books, we watched MASH reruns all the time, and my favorite thing to play with was a combination of Barbies and robots.
The first book he ever read me was Harry Potter, and while that carried us through to the fourth book, I was off on my own reading at that point, and it wasn’t long before he handed me LOTR and told me to study up. He introduced me to DragonLance, he listened to me freak out over Eragon, and he is still, to this day, the person that I tell about my books. I love reading because it’s a connection that constantly brings me back to him, that has always cemented the bond between us.
Connection with friends.
I’m never going to forget the moment that Erin & I realized we both wrote fanfiction. Back then, it was just not a thing that you out loud talked about, and it took us a while to admit it to each other, but once we did? Goners, both of us. We immediately started recommending books to each other so that we could shriek about our favorite ships, and that’s only the beginning. One of my current critique partners, Sara, started out because her book reminded me of other books I loved, so I started sending her recommendations, and then asked if we could keep critiquing for each other, and now, here we are, nearly a year later and sending each other books all the time. It’s one of the best ways to draw people together, and I’ve always found that the friends I’ve made through books are the ones I hold onto the longest.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that Jen planned her entire honeymoon bookstack based on my recommendations. She always says that I need to keep reading so voraciously so that I can weed out the bad ones for her and just send her off with amazing books.
These next three are going to sound kind of similar to each other, but oh my gosh, you’ve got to read to write. Recently, my main CP, Chelsea, mentioned that they thought they could learn more from On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong about writing than any other book in the world, and HARD SAME. Not only do we learn so much about how to write from incredible books, but we’re introduced to new ways to write old tropes that we love, we discover new types of characters that we want to write, and we get ideas from all over. Saintsverse was born out of a love of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo and Netflix’s Peaky Blinders. Researcher & librarian poured out of me because I was so enamored with Natasha Pulley’s historical fiction. Bookstore boys is literally a book based on one of my fanfictions that I wrote for the Marvel fandom. Books are the base for all writing.
Research for writing.
While books do help us learn how to write better, there’s also something pivotal for writing a good book–reading in the same genre. I’ve been working on a book that takes place partially in classical antiquity Greece, and while The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller takes place waaaaaay farther back, it was the exact right style of writing & setting to keep me afloat in my writing. When I was working on Saintsverse, all I wanted was other dark, gritty fantasy with small glimmers of hope. To get into the mood for Saints at sea, I started buying books that took place on ships or with pirates. And while there is something to be said for actual research for writing via history books, reading within the genre you’re writing is so important, too, and it’s one of my favorite things to do while I”m writing.
You cannot pour from an empty well.
This is something I’ve long said just in general, but it applies really well to writing. Whenever I finish a draft of a book, I usually take a few weeks to just read and watch TV. I’ll consume media at an alarming rate because I’ve just completely emptied my creative well, and I need to refill it. This isn’t even really a conscious decision anymore, just how my writing process has shifted, but it’s so necessary to not burning out. Writing books is hard, and the best way to recover from them is reading. And, not only do you spend some time cooling down after the race of finishing a book, you’re refilling the creative well to prepare for the next project. Everything that you’re reading in between is slowly birthing ideas.
Look, I’m never going to wield a sword and fight off a grimoire come to life with a wizard and a demon at my side, but a girl can dream, right? There’s something so powerful in being dropped into a fantasy world and seeing all your wildest dreams come true. I probably won’t ever find myself on a team of chaotic thieves who break into a bone cellar to destroy an awful prophecy, but I can definitely read a book to dream about what that might be like. The possibility for adventure is endless in books, and I never even have to leave my bed.
Books often reflect what I want the real world to look like.
While I am surrounded by queer witches, all of them live across the country, and it’s very rare that we can actually get together in-person. When we do, it’s amazing, and I almost feel like weeping when it’s over because it’s usually only once a year, and it’s just heartbreaking that we can’t experience that all the time. Thus, books like B*WITCH by Paige McKenzie & Nancy Ohlin are what I wish I could have in my own life. Badass, queer witches coming together to support each other and fight against anything less than acceptance. Even outside of the fantasy genre, there are so many contemporaries that show a world that we wish we lived in now, one where it doesn’t matter who you are but that you are kind.
I just love stories!
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and we literally wouldn’t be here, reading this post on a blog dedicated primarily to reading books, if I didn’t love stories. But it goes even farther back than that. I’ve loved stories long before I was truly psycho about books. I loved listening to my parents stories about growing up. I loved listening to ghost stories that my friends and I exchanged under the cover of darkness during sleepovers. I loved sneaking downstairs to quietly slide in a VHS and watch a movie that our parents didn’t want us to. (It was Titanic, we were such rebels.) I loved reading the little paragraph stories when I was eleven and learning how to complete sentences. I loved chapter books and finally feeling comfortable with reading bigger books on my own and asking for books for my birthday. I’ve always loved stories, whether it’s reading or writing them, and I’m going to continue reading as many as I can for as long as possible because it brings me more joy than anything else in the world.