A Definition Post: What is a Reader?

We are all readers. Thats why we’re here – here in the book blogging community, that is. But what exactly is a reader? I mean, people all over the world can read but don’t consider themselves part of the community of “readers”. So what does it take? I’ve been a reader from a young age, so I think its about time I set my definition of a reader down in stone.

A reader is someone who discovers a passion for reading with every book they pick up. This does not mean that every book must be liked. Instead, it means that every book reveals something about the process of reading or, more spectacularly, the reader themself. Being a reader doesn’t just mean you read books. It means you live for books. The things they can teach you (or the things they can’t), they places they can take you and the new worlds and lives they open up. Being a reader means that books are a companion – they go beyond mere physical things. They are friends, enemies, companions. They go with us to see the world, they travel to hospitals and on planes; they visit beaches and mountains and the insides of purses, briefcases, backpacks. They live and breathe our daily lives with us. They come in hardback, paperback, digital. Their covers are beautiful, their covers are worn – they have characterists as telling as anyone else you may meet on the street. But there is more to being a reader than the books (althoug that is a huge part of it!)

Being a reader requires faith in the power of the story. The power of the story to transform, to comfort, and perhaps even to manipulate. It requires the knowledge that stories have always existed, and that some of the most basic human knowledge can be spread by stories. The power of words is an amazing force. That is a fact that needs to be recognized. Readers don’t have to live their lives in books. They are always capable of a great many things, and living vicariously, although enjoyable, doesn’t make a reader. But knowing and recognizing the power of words does. Every day, every where, a reader can see, recognize, and take joy in the words and stories going on around them. It’s an amazing power, and a power that readers can only hope to share with others.

It may be kind of a loose definition of a reader, but in my mind, this is what a reader is. Being a reader transcends race, gender, age, genre, sexuality, and location. And its a club that is not hard to join – we’re always desperate for new members, in fact! Because all reading should be… happy reading!

Here is what some other, wiser minds than mine, have to say about reading:

Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
~ Mortimer J. Adler ~

To feel most beautifully alive means to be reading something beautiful, ready always to apprehend in the flow of language the sudden flash of poetry.
~ Gaston Bachelard ~

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested:
that is, some books are to be read only in parts,
others to be read, but not curiously, and some few
to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

~ Francis Bacon ~

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

~ Marcus T. Cicero ~

All good books are alike in that they are truer
than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one
you will feel that all that happened
to you and afterwards it all belongs to you;
the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.

~ Ernest Hemingway ~


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nymeth
    Feb 11, 2009 @ 16:45:44

    On the one hand I can completely see myself in your definition of “reader” and I love how you captured what reading means for so many of us. On the other hand, I always hesitate to define reader as more than “someone who reads, even if not daily” because there’s the danger of becoming exclusive, you know? Of sounding like certain conditions have to be fulfilled before someone can be called “a reader”. And that can discourage people who enjoy reading but aren’t as involved with the world of books as I am, or you are. And like you said, we most definitely do need new members! I hope I’m making sense here.


  2. Jeane
    Feb 12, 2009 @ 12:37:26

    I like your definition.


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