The Necessity of Reading

September 8, 2009 at 4:00 am 25 comments


Smart Bitch Sarah

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Sarah Wendell of  Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

When I was asked to guest-blog for the 2009 Unleash Your Story, I literally giggled out loud. You want me to wank on about the joys of reading? Sure! I could write about how much I like breathing, too, or eating! Yes! I like eating and reading about the same amount, which is to say, a whole heaping pile of a lot.

Many people have asked me how I discovered romance novels, and that story begins with my insecurity at being a late reader. I had a hell of a time learning to read, at least, from an educator’s perspective I did. I remember clearly being moved backwards in reading groups in elementary school, but I don’t remember if it was because I couldn’t read or because I stubbornly didn’t want to read the words I was given. You’d think I’d remember the moment when I finally “got it,” and learned to read, but I don’t. I just know that at some point I did, because boy howdy dangnabbit, do I read a lot now.

Once I did figure it out, I developed a totally seductive, almost addictive relationship with words. If I see words, I read them. And – this is the troublesome part – I go completely deaf and peripherally blind to anything but those words. Drives my family nuts. They practically have to light a bucket on fire and use a strobe light to get my attention when I’m reading. When I’m reading, there is nothing else in my world but the words in front of me.

For that reason, reading is one of the few things I do that can occupy me entirely. With just about everything else on my to-do list, I multitask. I feed the family, sort the mail, pack lunches, schedule activities, feed the animals – all at the same time.

With reading, it is my sole companion, my unique and solitary task. Because it can entrance me all by itself, it is the most effective way I know of to recharge and relax. Written text is my comfort food, my favorite way to nourish and care for myself. Reading is a treat at any time, but especially when I’m so busy I think seriously about going back to school for multiple science degrees so I can study the potential of temporary cloning for humans.

Reading is my flannel sheets, my quilt that’s worn and soft, my warmest socks, my favorite chair, my homemade soup, my perfect hug – the one thing that sustains my peace and comfort when I need it most. Reading is more than my joy; reading is my necessity. More, please?

Sarah Wendell is co-author of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels, and co-founder of Smart Bitches Trashy The web site specializes in reviewing romance novels, examining the history and future of the genre, and bemoaning the enormous prevalence of bodacious pectorals adorning male cover models.

Sarah has been seen on The Today Show, the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Steven and Chris Show, and on So Many Books. She has been quoted in People Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Post, USA Today, New Jersey Monthly, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times Book Blog, Metro:New York, and Publishers Weekly.


Entry filed under: reading. Tags: , , .

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  • 1. Kwana  |  September 8, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Nice post. There is nothing like getting completely lost in a story.

  • 2. annmariegamble  |  September 8, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    A guy walking past my table at an outdoor cafe thought I was ogling him. No–he was wearing pants with words printed all over them, and I was trying to make sense of his leg. Awesome pecs or T-shirt with slogan? So I’ve tried to tone down the reading reflex with clothing.

  • 4. Elise Logan  |  September 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I believe there are a number of us who view books as a necessity. In my case, I’ll read anything – toothpaste tubes, ingredient labels, magazines at the doctor’s office. If it’s put in front of me, I’ll read it. I may even hate reading it, but I’ll read it. Which makes it painful for me to read bad stuff. lol. It’s also the reason I adore e-publishing. There it is – words, stories, all there any time I want them. Gajillions of them. *happysigh*

    • 5. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

      Cereal boxes are very popular reading. It seems to me when I was a kid one of the cereals even had stories on the back to promote kids’ reading.

      Anyone remember that? This might have been back when cereal boxes were chiseled out of stone. Or maybe I made it up.

  • 6. The luxury of reading « Teresa Bodwell Writes  |  September 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    […] of reading Posted on September 8, 2009 by Teresa Bodwell So–Sarah Wendell is over at Unleash Your Story talking about how reading is a necessity. And I’m here thinking on the flip-side what a […]

  • 7. SB Sarah  |  September 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I totally remember stories on cereal boxes! And a box of Alpha Bits that folded down to become a pretend computer. Holy cow did I want a REAL computer.

    Funny how that worked out. I love computers almost as much as I love books.

  • 8. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 8, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Ooh. A cereal box computer. That does sound like fun. 🙂

  • 9. Marilyn  |  September 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Excellent post Sarah. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without my books!

  • 10. Sabrina  |  September 8, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    My husband says that when I’m reading I’m “in the zone” LOL. He says the house could be burning or he could be hurt and if I’m in my reading zone I will have no clue.

    Whenever I pull out a book he goes, “oh no, you’re gonna be in your reading zone again.”

  • 11. Karen W.  |  September 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Great post. I’m the same way. Readiing is a necessity to me; it’s essential to my well-being and sanity. Books are as important to me as breathing at this point.

    I laughed over your comment about eating and reading because a book-loving friend & I actually had that discussion once — which one do you love more, eating, sleeping, or reading? 🙂

  • 12. SB Sarah  |  September 8, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    “which one do you love more, eating, sleeping, or reading?”


    Gosh, I have no idea. I do know that when I’m brain tired, and my head is like a cell phone with a low battery, sometimes sleep doesn’t help at all, and only reading and isolated enjoyment of a book are what make me feel better. So in order: eating, reading, sleeping. I’d rather give up sleep to read than give up reading to sleep!

  • 13. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 8, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Hey anyone else find reading a good substitute for sleep? I’ve had a few times when I just couldn’t sleep. Wake up with the mind buzzing and can’t get back to sleep.

    I’ve found that if I stay in bed and try really hard to sleep, I wake up feeling horrible. But if I give in, go to the couch (so as not to disturb the dh) and read for a couple of hours I end up nearly as rested as if I’d slept. Nothing beats a good sleep, but getting lost in a book can be very restful.

    The downside of this is that if the book makes me sleepy I can’t always roll over and go to sleep because at that point I’m hooked and I end up staying up to finish the darn book.

  • 14. Lusty Reader  |  September 8, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Oh *contented sigh* such a wonderful post Sarah, especially this whole line, “Reading is my flannel sheets, my quilt that’s worn and soft……”

    What a great way to phrase your love of reading! I too get in the reading zone. The first winter after getting married I perfected reading while a football game was on the background. So that way we could still sit next to each other on the couch, but enjoy our own things. I could never ever tell you was even playing in the game, let alone lost or won!

  • 15. marley  |  September 8, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    reading is my way to relax also but more than that, it is my means of escape. it was even more that when i, as a teenager, went through a particularly bad time trying to gain autonomy while still legally a child. the fact that i was also suffering from depression at the same time was not helping. reading in general, especially good horror and romance, helped me survive and escape. the constant reassurancce of the possibility of a happy ending– absolutely priceless, as was the fact that with darker stories i could always reassure myself that at least my life isn’t as bad as theirs. but the relief and joy of simply being able to stop being yourself for a time, not to live as yourself for hours on end was perhaps the greatest gift reading has ever given me.

    • 16. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 8, 2009 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks for sharing Marley.

      Oh yeah. A story can be a great way to escape the harsh reality life sometimes brings our way. So much better than a movie, for example. You can really immerse yourself in the story when you read a book.

      Books have brought me through some dark times as well. One of the reasons we chose to call this event Unleash Your Story is because of our belief in the power of story to make a difference in the world.

      Stories can provide escape, solace or inspiration for one reader or ten thousand. The can last longer than a lifetime–think of all the people who are still experience the worlds Jane Austen built in her stories.

      We hope the stories we unleash this month will make a huge difference for the kids and adults with cystic fibrosis today and for future generations.

  • 17. Kristina Cook  |  September 8, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing that, Sarah! I was another of those kids that would read *anything* with text on it. Reflecting back, I think it was because my favorite books were my consistent, childhood-long “friends”. My dad was a federal agent (retired now), and we moved pretty much every year until I got to middle school. I went to a new school every single year of elementary school, and some years I went to two (kindergarten and fifth grade). New friends, every year. But my favorite books stayed with me throughout the years, always there when I wanted something familiar.

  • 18. Meg  |  September 9, 2009 at 3:41 am

    Beautiful post, Sarah!

    Reading in general inspires all the comfy feelings you just described, but for me, it all narrows down to one author in particular: Lisa Kleypas. Holy Smokes, do I love me some Lisa Kleypas. Each one of her books is like a soft word blankie.

    Ditto for “Gone With the Wind.” Not exactly the most politically correct book in the history of the printed word, but once I picked it up at the tender age of thirteen, I couldn’t put it down. It’s the first book I remember truly loving. My little stuffed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle that I slept with each night was soon replaced by that book.

    • 19. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 9, 2009 at 4:00 am

      Meg–you made me smile.

      TMNT to GWTW? Now there’s a transition!

      • 20. Meg  |  September 9, 2009 at 4:38 pm

        I was a strange child, now that I look back on it.

  • 21. SB Sarah  |  September 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    How has no one come up with a TMNT/GWTW pastiche title, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

    • 22. Meg  |  September 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm

      April O’Neal: Oh, Leonardo! Where will I go, what will I do?

      Leonardo: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a (*censored because this is a children’s show.*) We’re two different species, anyway.

      • 23. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 9, 2009 at 5:47 pm

        Meg–you must write this story. 😉

  • 24. SB Sarah  |  September 9, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Also – oops, I hit “submit” too soon — thank you for the compliments!

  • 25. Teresa Bodwell  |  September 9, 2009 at 1:30 pm


    Thanks so much for your inspiring words and for hanging out us. The Romance Unleash authors really appreciate you taking the time and we’re sure our readers are now all geared up to crank out even more pages.

    And we hope all those pages read will inspire donors to shell out even more dollars because that is the bottom line. If we’re going to kick this disease in the arse, we need the bucks to do it.

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