Serendipity. We have been running a series on our blog, 'Why I Read' and, today, we read Lauri Kubuitsile's column 'It's All Write' in Mmegi, where she asks other writers 'Why Read?'. Lauri kindly agreed for us to post the column here.
In interviews and when I’m on panels at literary festivals I’m often asked about the importance of reading, especially for writers. For me it seems crazy that a person would choose not to read, especially fiction. From as soon as I learned to read I knew that books held thousands and thousands of lives that I could step into just by opening the covers. I’ve never understood a person who would choose to live a single life when they could live hundreds of different lives. And as for a writer who doesn’t read—or me that’s a person who can’t be taken seriously. Books are your school. You can attend as many writing workshops and MFA programmes as you like, but if you don’t read, your writing will show it. It makes no sense to me.
I decided to ask some of my writing friends the question: “Why read?” Below are their beautiful answers.
“To develop a critical skeleton. As someone who struggles to read recreationally — preferring theory or critical opinion driven writing — I read because it keeps me thinking of multiple approaches to subjects. However, when I do sit with a casual book, it also adds to my conception of self and my library of imagery, metaphors, and expressions. It gives me the opportunity to discover how other people express things that I have felt or experienced but never had the words to use. That's why, for me, reading is necessary.” - Katlego K Kol-Kes, poet, performer, and writer
“Reading is mind-food, and the only key to the encyclopaedia of life. One must read, the same way one eats nutrients. Without a nutritious diet, malnutrition sets in, and so it is with the mind; it deteriorates for lack of feeding. Today’s healthy & successful lifestyle is in the written word; that’s our life manual for raising children, successful relationships, wellbeing, wealth creation etc.
Your mind has limitless growth for success when you read, but when deprived of such feeding, it only grows into a vegetable. Reading is an acquired excellent habit that is easy to develop; start slowly and watch your interest grow. -Andrew Sesinyi, writer
"I read stories to widen my ears to the lives I've never lived. Because a person is only given one lifetime, but that does not stop us from living through the eye's of others." - Tiah Beautement, writer
“I've been to France under Louis the XVI; the Carribean in the late 19th Century; India in the glory days of the Maharajas; America as it was "discovered" and Botswana before it was a Protectorate of the British Crown. I have also been to the future. And yet I was born in 1976.
Because reading carries you to lands unknown in the past and worlds not yet seen in the future. In the present though, reading takes you to countries you may not be able to afford to go to and then you realize how we all love, laugh, hurt and ache. Reading shows you that the other may just not so much be another but a lot like you. That someone somewhere has experienced the struggles you have which you assume are unique to you. I read because I seek to understand.”- Zukiswa Wanner, writer
“Reading is especially imperative for writers for the simple reason that you can’t write if you don’t read. Writers must be readers and they must do so intensely… and extensively!”- Barolong Seboni, poet and writer
“Reading is an escape that allows me to travel anywhere in the world and intimately know a people, culture, food and walk with the locals. It is a great workout for the brain, entertaining and greatly increases knowledge”. - Caiphus Mangenela, writer
“Read to understand yourself and others, to investigate human nature, to experience the full spectrum of human emotion, to develop empathy and compassion, to see different perspectives, to learn new things, to explore new places and to stay sane in an insane world.” -Cheryl Ntumy, writer
Lauri Kubuitsile is an award-winning writer living in Botswana. She has numerous published books for both kids and adults, across various genres, and her short stories have been published around the world. She has won the Pan-African prize for Children's Writing, The Golden Baobab (twice), the Bessie Head Literature Award for short story, the 2007 AngloPlatinum Short Story Contest, and the Botswana's Department of Arts and Culture, 2007 Botswerere Award for Creative Writing. Lauri was shortlisted for the 2011 Caine Prize.
Her blog is Blog: http://thoughtsfrombotswana.blogspot.com/