A lot of benefits have been proposed and verified as proponents for the value of reading. From improvement of empathy to increase of intelligence and everything in between. I agree with all of them but my personal reason for reading is the therapeutic effect it has on me.
I have long struggled with cyclic variations of mood and affect for all my life; depression, anxiety, mania and even downright psychosis. Reading takes it all away. When I open a book and smell the pages (I know it sounds weird) I immediately divorce myself from reality. From the very moment I read the first sentence my imagination takes the pilot seat. I shut the world outside and immerse myself in the beautiful realm of possibilities and probabilities. I do not care whether it is fiction or not, I just enclose myself into a conclave which is far much wider than the confines of time and space.
As I read D.H Lawrence I find myself in the slums of England. As I read James Joyce I find myself in Ireland. As I read Dambudzo Marechera I find myself in the Rhodesian ghetto. Gunter Gruss takes me to Germany. Homer transports me to Greece. Stephen Hawkings gives me a ride on the shoulders of time itself. Wole Soyinka rents me a room in war-torn Nigeria. Henry Gray gives me a tour of the human body. Napoleon Hill teaches me all there is to know about success. Sun Tsu takes me through a crash course of military training. All these authors and more give me access to the deepest pits of their minds. At the end of it I come out renewed and redeemed. Reading to me is like charging a cellphone, it keeps me alive.
It is very hard to initiate and sustain physical human contact. Friends and mentors are always infallible. Relationships of any form take time to mature and take too much effort to leave room for self-introspection. Why should I invest years of my life gleaning life lessons from a few individuals when I can get the same wisdom and knowledge in a few hours? Books are my friends, mentors, teachers, therapists, medication and soul-mates. If I do not read I will die. It is that simple.