The advantages of reading – the pleasures of reading novels; they carry us into a different world and enlarge our experience; suspense and our tendency to identify ourselves with the hero – other kinds of books are also delightful.
The advantages of reading are well known. Reading enables us to pass examinations and get jobs, and enhances our general ability and competence in any field of life. But the pleasures of reading are as important as its uses. In fact, books cannot be really useful unless they are first enjoyed.
There can be few more delightful ways of spending a holiday than reading a good novel. One source of pleasure afforded by novels is that they make us escape for a time from the drab, humdrum circumstances of our lives. Romantic novels, of course, transport us into an exciting world poles apart from our own. But even realistic novels bring us into contact with experiences different from our own.
Our personal experience in real life is limited and much of it is commonplace. Reading fiction is delightful, partly because it indirectly provides us with several experiences for which we have no opportunities in actual life.
Another source of the pleasure of reading novels is suspense. A novel with a good plot makes us eager to know, from beginning to end, what is to happen next. It is because of this quality of suspense in some novels that we are unwilling to lay them aside till we have read them to the end. Again, as everybody knows, another reason why reading novels is pleasant is that we tend to identify ourselves with the hero or the central character, and experience his joys and sorrows for the time being. This mainly accounts for our pleasure in reading biographies.
While fiction is usually considered to be a delightful form of reading, other kinds of writing too impart pleasure. Apart from plays which resemble fiction, books of travel and light essays are enjoyable. Poetry appeals to our feelings and sense of beauty. Reading even serious or heavy books – books on science or philosophy – is not without its joy for those who are interested in the subjects concerned. All knowledge is pleasure, and reading a book on the dullest or the most unpleasant subjects can be pleasurable, provided one is intensely interested in it.