I am going to get this quote wrong. But let me try. Benjamin Franklin (now...it might have been him or someone in his category of person) said "the saddest man on earth is a man who is lonely, in the rain, and can not read."
The thought of being pitiable because I cannot read immediately connects with me. Someone said we read so we know we are not alone. True. I think that is true. But I also read because it is an invitation into a larger universe. Have you stopped to consider the wonder of being able to reap, not just your own thoughts and growth, but the thoughts and growth of other human persons? When I read I am living inside someones formation, their invisible self.
Reading has been essential in my own journey to me move beyond the weights in my soul. These weights take up psychological space (my unprocessed and sometimes even unknown hurts and wounds,) spiritual energy (practices to which I feel obliged that do not bring life,) and create theological lumpiness (images of God that are distorted and actually keep me from loving and being loved by Him.)
Transformation is foundational to spirituality. If we are not being transformed, we are not living a spiritual life. Reading has fueled my transformation on many levels. Think about it - novels show me how other people dance and stumble and choose - what the possibilities are. Written prayers school me on how to meet with God. Books train me, inspire me, discipline me, make me furious, comfort me in sorrow, fill me with beauty. Reading is faux silence, full of every possible sound.
I remember reading "The English Patient" when we were in Hungary leading a retreat. I read through the nights in an unheated cabin, a quilt pulled over my head, my nose peeking out for breath, cold and red. The story took over my reality, (it is quite different than the movie, my inspiration to read the book.) When I finally turned the last page, finished, I began to sob, deeply. I had no other way to let out the emotion and deep radiance of the story. Steve mumbled from his cot across the room, "Are you crying? Are you okay?" I couldn't stop, just sniffled out, "It is so beautiful."
Without shared meaning like this I would hardly be human.