• Writing Prompt: Why Read?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 16 comments

    Discussion question: In a culture where visual entertainment is never more than a click away… why do you still read books? Is it for escapism only? Is it to keep up with what your fellow writers are putting out? Do you read because you believe those studies that say it makes us more empathetic as humans? Let’s talk about it below.



    So… it’s been awhile. As evidenced by the fact that our last blog post was titled “The Best Passage You Wrote in 2022.” But I’m going to try to resurrect this thing, starting with a simple — or maybe not so simple? — prompt that I’m hoping will ignite a fun discussion in the comments below.

    In the recent Yak Babies episode “Reading Resolutions for 2024” I talk about how I’m not going to hold myself to any kind of reading standard this year. Rather than resolve to read, say, 36 books this year, or read 20 books from the Modern Library list or whatever, my resolution is: to read when I want to. And to not read when I don’t want to.

    I’m not sure if it’s working, or what “working” even looks like. I’ve read four novels so far this year, which is more than I’d read by this point last year. But last year, as some of you may remember, I spent almost all of February, March, and April in the fog of a concussion that left me almost totally nonfunctional. (And which, if I really think about it, was the death blow to this blog.)


    But the Yaks discussion also got me thinking: Why do I read?

    There’s barely a single TV show or movie I can’t watch with a few clicks, or games I can’t play with a swipe or two, or YouTube rabbit holes I can’t fall into. There’s music to listen to! Podcasts to… listen to!

    And that’s just the at-home stuff! What about walks in the park? Museums and galleries and libraries and bars and restaurants? Kites? Graffiti?

    How does reading stand a chance against all of that?


    Well, that’s what I’m asking you this week. Why do you read?

    It seems like such a simple question. But is it?

    Let me know your answer below. And don’t be shy — respond to your fellow WriteByNighters, too! Or share this post with your literary friends to see what they’ve got to say about it.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and writes about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres. If you have a writing project you’d like a little help with, sign up for your free writing consultation and let’s chat!


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    I allow myself to read because I’m told it’s important for writers – but that begs the question – why do I need an excuse? Reading is too much luxury and not enough stress. Reading allows me to enter the world of someone who has been through something transformative and invites me to be transformed, too. Reading seduces me with the rhythm and artistry of words. It’s pure decadence- but since writers are “supposed” to read, call it a discipline and I indulge!

    Last edited 1 month ago by Britt
    Marilu BK

    I read because I experience ideas, emotions, and perspectives that offer me the privilege of hearing someone else’s thoughts in a format that I can revisit to take in and fully absorb. Movies and television programs move quickly and often leave out context that someone might not process completely and then things move on rather quickly. I see this as a sad reality that books don’t do to you. Why read? To really hear an uninterrupted perspective. It is a lovely part of life.

    David L

    I read for to learn, to learn how to do, or for entertainment. Occasionally, I run into a book which offers two or even all three. “Theodore Rex” had two of the three. Some historical fiction, science fiction and mysteries can entertain, teach history, science, forensics and logic and even a little how-to.


    Stephen King says you learn more as a writer by reading bad books than you do by reading good books. So that’s why I’ll stick with a bad book. For good books, it’s partly the escape/entertainment. But it’s also to see what people are writing about, and to learn more about myself by seeing what I like and don’t like. If that makes sense.


    I read for lots of different reasons. Sometimes just for escape. But I’m always looking for authors who blow me away with their eloquence and. craftmanship. It’s pretty rare. I think maybe the last I read that made me feel that way was Megan Abbott’s “The Song Is You.”


    I love stories. If I’m interested in a story, and it’s hasn’t made it to the big screen yet, I’m going to read it. If I watched a movie and I didn’t like the acting aspect, I’m going to read it. I read because I love stories. If I watched a movie and loved the storyline, I’m going to read it. In my opinion it’s better to read for enjoyment than forced. For instance, when I was in school and I had to read books on the curriculum it took me forever to finish it. On the other hand if… Read more »


    To see how other people live, or how writers imagine other people live. That’s why I like foreign lit. You can watch documentaries, Nat Geo, etc., but fiction from other countries is the best way to get into the heads of people whose experiences are far different than mine.

    Jack B

    Reading to me is like trawling the great ocean of human history and sifting through the infinitesimal sand and coarse gravel, soon finding yourself loaded with handfuls of the finest jewels, amulets and talismans, which then, while you adventure through the world crafting your own story-line, bring you luck, protect you from menace, and pique your senses to both the beautiful and the grotesque.

    David Duhr

    I love this response. Thank you. What’s beautiful and/or grotesque that you’ve been into lately?

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x