What It Means to Be a Reader

Originally Posted on November Notebook. Reposted here because I still love this article.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A READER

You get it. You’re in on the big secret. You know the password.

You have an active imagination. You know how to tune out the noise around you. You’re a page-turner, you have ink on your fingers, your homepage is set to GoodReads.

To be a reader, of course, means everything.

It means that you’re willing to jump into other people’s shoes. You’re okay with exploring a new world. You understand that it’s fine to feel like fiction sometimes surpasses reality. You spend so much time surrounded by reality, anyway. So you open up a door to somewhere else, you test the waters, and when you come back to your own world, you see things a little differently.

Being a reader makes you a magician. You make something out of nothing. You bring life to someone who doesn’t exist. The flick of your eyes across the page is the spark that makes characters run and fly and crash and burn. Without you, nothing happens. Harry stays under the stairs forever. Katniss never leaves District 12. Beatrice Prior never becomes Tris. You make that happen.

The world of a reader is often solitary. You don’t get together with people so you can all read in the same room at the same time. That isn’t really how it works. You spend your time in that worn, comfy chair, or out on the balcony in the sun, or on the beach in the summer.

But you have to do it by yourself.

This is not a curse. You learn to become happy with being in your own head. You explore your thoughts. You learn to appreciate silence. Sometimes, you realize, it’s better to step away from the glowing screens and the buzz of traffic and the constant conversation. There’s time for that, too, but you don’t need it as much as you used to.

You, like so many of us, know the value of words, the weight that they can carry. They can melt you down, they can freeze your blood, they can soothe. But words can hurt you, too. They can leave scars, they can break your heart. Maybe you turn those scars into tattoos. Maybe you write down those seven magic words and tape them to your desk. Or maybe you just lock them away and keep them as a treasure for yourself. That’s fine, too.

Whatever the case, you’re a reader. You’re one of us.