Why We Read: A Blog from Dear Reader

Gary Rodriguez

Why We Read: A Blog from Dear Reader

I was recently asked to guest blog for Dear Reader. This is a great site for those of us who love to read. I’m sharing the blog here, but be sure to visit their website for a chance to win a copy of Firstborn and other prizes. 




Originally published on Dear Reader, September 6, 2017.

The first time I ever blurted out the words “I want to write a novel” I was home for spring break my freshman year in college (this is 1989 for those counting). I was telling my dad how I loved that a great book was like a roller coaster with its ups and downs, twists and turns. And then I blurted it out: I want to write a novel.

That day, my dad made me a deal: he’d pay me what I would have made working as a bank teller that summer, if I spent the summer writing that novel and treated it like a job.

It was a no brainer. (I was a horrible bank teller!) So I set to research, gathered my notes and that summer I set to work.

Two days in, I thought, “Wow, this is really hard!” I had no clue what I was doing. But I wrote through it, powered by a dream of seeing my books on a shelf one day, of afternoons spent on the phone with my agent or editor.

The dream didn’t go much further than that. Neither did that manuscript, which is in a crate somewhere in my basement like a skeleton.

Twenty-eight years later as I finish my eleventh to-be-published novel, the dream is different. I still want to build roller coasters, but the reason has changed. Because I’ve lost track of the readers who have told me, sometimes through tears, how important novels have been during trying times in their lives: during a difficult marriage, while caring for an ailing parent, in the midst of illness, recovery, or psychological challenges. When they couldn’t work, felt alone, or otherwise simply needed to escape, if only an hour at a time.

That was me, once, struggling through my first marriage. Dealing with OCD and anxiety. Needing to slip into someone else’s skin, if only for a while.

Today I don’t consider myself a novelist so much as a purveyor of healthy escape–even if only from boredom. It’s a job I am humbly thankful to every reader for, every single day. Because I do it with the belief that we read–and write–not just to set real life aside for a time, make sense of the world, or to have fun (a pursuit I take seriously) but to know, ultimately, that we are not alone.

You may not know me, you may not have read my books. But I’m thinking of you today, as I work at my desk. And I am grateful.


Visit Dear Reader for a chance to win a copy of Firstborn and other prizes

  • Marian Walker
    Posted at 13:10h, 22 September Reply

    As one of your fans, I’d like to thank you for providing such wonderful modes of escape. We may not know each other but I consider you a trusted friend who supplies me with escape hatches that allow me to recover and regroup before returning to the real world. I am grateful for you 🙂

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