Why the world needs readers (like you)

Why the world needs readers (like you)

It’s m’duty to tell you that this article contains affiliate links, which earn me commission at no extra cost to you. Here’s my disclosure policy.

I’ll be honest. It’s in my own self-interest to say that reading is important. I am the author of a book blog, after all.

But I believe—passionately—that reading is more than your average pastime. Much more.

Here’s why I think that readers, people like you and me, are critical to preserving civilization—and helping it flourish.

Reading teaches you how (not what) to think

In How to Read a Book (yes, that’s the actual title) Mortimer J. Adler frets over newfangled modes of mass communication, such as radio and magazines. He worries about how they “package” intellectual positions with the goal of helping Average Joe make up his mind with minimum difficulty and effort. But, Adler asserts, Joe doesn’t make up his mind at all. 

“Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and ‘plays back’ the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think.”

Doesn’t this sound frighteningly familiar? When was the last time you had an original thought of your own? Something that wasn’t fed to you by social media or the news? It’s a sobering question for me, no doubt. 

But reading great books is the gateway to (real) free thinking. 

Reading teaches you to reflect before you react

How different would social media be if people thought for a minute before they reacted to something online? 

Tweets and bite-sized videos make short, snappy statements. If we trust the source, then we take the statement as fact. We don’t mull it over for a few days. We don’t take time to reflect on it and form our own individual viewpoints. We immediately react by tapping a button—we don’t even have to put our feelings into words—hello, emojis.

Tony Reinke says, “The temptation is to react, not to ponder. I am quick to Tweet and slow to think. I am quick to Google and slow to ponder.” 

As we mature as readers, we tend to choose challenging books that don’t lend themselves to simple “likes” or “dislikes.” They demand we switch on our brain and puzzle it out. And this is good—for us and the world at large.

Reading forms your character, cultivates virtue, and encourages empathy

So often, I find myself reading to get information. I need to KNOW something. But, more than informing my mind, reading forms my character.

Tell a teenage girl, “Don’t flirt with boys,” and you’ve succeeded in informing her of something you believe to be true. But show her Lydia Bennet in all her foolishness, tell her Lydia’s story, how it begins and how it ends, and you may succeed in a far greater way.

Karen Swallow Prior says it in the fewest possible words: “Literary characters have a lot to teach us about character.”

Reading allows us to see life through another’s eyes, exposes us to things beyond the scope of our own experience, and enlarges our view of humanity.

Reading forces you to slow down and savor

I confess, I sometimes plow through a book brainlessly, just trying to get through. But often, especially when I’m reading something truly great, I slow down and linger over the language, bask in the storytelling, and hope it won’t end too soon.

There’s enough “rush, rush, hurry” in my life. Reading, for me, is an opportunity to stop scurrying and pursue peace. 

Experienced readers know that it’s not a race to read the most and the fastest. It’s about hopping off the hamster wheel, stepping into the fresh air, and receiving the gift.

“Literature is a form of discovery, perception, intensification, expression, interpretation, creativity, beauty, and understanding. These are ennobling activities and qualities. For a Christian, they can be God-glorifying, a gift from God to the human race to be accepted with zest.”

Leland Ryken, Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective

True readers are free thinkers. 

They reflect before they react. 

They cultivate character, virtue, and empathy by reading widely and well.

They know how to slow down and enjoy.

The world needs more readers!

I, for one, am grateful to be in company with so many, with you.

Be where the readers are

Subscribe to The Book Devotions weekly newsletter. It’s a balm for your bookish soul.

Is reading books good for you?

Is reading books good for you?

It’s m’duty to tell you that this article contains affiliate links, which earn me commission at no extra cost to you. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Have you ever read a book and then felt like you had to repent afterward? 😂

Maybe the book had an open-door bedroom scene that totally fogged glass. 

Or it might’ve described the gruesome, twisted rape of a child.

Whatever it was, it crossed the line.

I felt that way after reading Patrick Suskind’s Perfume for a college class. I know, I know it’s a classic. But it freaked the crap out of me, and I vowed I’d never read anything like it again.

But, there have been times when I’ve been reading a book, and I feel God tugging at my sleeve, whispering, “Put it down.” 

And I ignore Him.

I keep turning the pages anyway, even though I know it’s trashing me up. For whatever reason, I don’t want to put the book down even though I should.

Professor and psychiatrist Anna Lembke describes in her book, Dopamine Nation, how she got addicted to (of all things) romance novels.

It all started after she devoured one wildly popular, addicting YA romance series. After that, she was hooked. 

Lembke says,

“I became a chain reader of formulaic erotic genre novels. As soon as I finished one e-book, I moved to the next: reading instead of socializing, reading instead of cooking, reading instead of sleeping, reading instead of paying attention to my husband and kids.”

As Lembke herself admits, this type of reading is unhealthy. (Just so you know, she overcame her addiction and went on to help many others with theirs.)

This type of reading doesn’t please God. It doesn’t enhance our spiritual walk. I don’t have to convince you of this.


Can we read books for pleasure and please God at the same time?

Of course!

Reading is a gift from God. When we read wisely and well, it draws us closer to God.

In fact, reading can foster selflessness and fraternal love. 

C.S. Lewis says it best in this quote from An Experiment in Criticism. He asks why do we read? And he answers like this:

“We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves.

We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own.

In love we escape from our self into one other.

This process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; ‘he that loseth his life shall save it.'”

Reading allows us to see life from the viewpoint of another. And empathy blossoms in our heart.

Sarah MacKenzie hits the nail on the head in her book The Read-Aloud Family.

“When we finish the final chapter of a book that has touched us on a deep level and we slip back into our own shoes, we are never quite the same. We’re changed. We start the book in one place and leave it in quite another—more merciful, more understanding, maybe a little more compassionate than we were before.”

We feel God’s approval in this kind of reading. 

We don’t have to choose only sanitized books or books that can pass the TSA of Christian censorship. 

We can read to please God when we pick up Homer or even Harry Potter.

We can read good books with godly discernment and walk away with treasures untold.

Empathy is one of the richest gems we can gain. 

Another is virtue.

“Literature embodies virtue, first, by offering images of virtue in action and, second, by offering the reader a vicarious practice in exercising virtue, which is not the same as actual practice, of course, but is nonetheless a practice by which habits of mind, ways of thinking and perceiving, accrue.”

Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well
  • Empathy for my fellow humans.
  • Vicarious virtue to train my mind.

Stories offer these treasures—freely.

Can you name any other hobby that can say the same?

Yes, reading requires effort, but the rewards are rich, and they last a lifetime.

If you’re feeling a little soul-starved…a little dissatisfied with the superficiality of it all…a good book is never far away.

My prayer for you is that you let reading lift you up, not weigh you down.