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Reading is an activity enjoyed by billions of people in all parts of the world. With a world population nearing six billion, experts suggest as many as three-quarters of the world's population reads.

Among these people are a dedicated group who read any time they can. They rush home from work to get back to a book. They read in buses. They read in doctor's offices. They read anywhere they can, and consider books the ultimate virtual reality experience.

"Books are a kind of inexpensive virtual reality system for me. I can go back and forth in a book, rest to digest some stunning ideas or pictures, or skip some pages if the contents or style aren't interesting," says Robert Russ of Austria. He learned English just so he could read American science fiction.

No matter what kind of books you're into, reading buffs say books are a window into another world.

"Almost any book has the potential to take you somewhere. I love to read great writing, to hear the play of words in my mind's ear and imagine a well-spoken author speaking to me," says Andy Kline, an avid reader in Kansas City, Missouri.

While most reading buffs will read wherever they can, many say they have a favorite place to read.

"I read everywhere -- at work on my lunch break, at the park, at the beach, on planes, in the airport, at the bus stop -- but my favorite place is probably on the couch in my bay window, cuddled in a warm afghan with my two cats at my feet," says Kimberly Cline, a reading buff in Oakland, California.

People of all ages, abilities and incomes can participate in this hobby. You can get anything from picture books to 1,000-page novels for free from your library. Then all you have to do is sit back, relax, and read!

Reading doesn't have to be a solitary activity. There are clubs and groups you can join -- everything from reading groups to author fan clubs.

"Coffee houses, bookstores, libraries and even newspapers often have announcements about reading groups starting up," says Cline.

If you can't find a reading group you like, you can always start your own.

"Creating a reading group isn't difficult. Just pick a theme, or not, then post an announcement where your target audience is likely to see it, or just use word of mouth and keep the group amongst friends," says Cline.

Some people who call themselves reading buffs now didn't always like to read. "Throughout high school and college, I disliked reading. I think it was because I associated it with work instead of fun," says Kline.

There are no rules about what you have to read. Some reading buffs say they were put off by reading at first because they thought they had to read only the classics and other types of serious literature. Many grew to love reading as they realized they could read what they were interested in.

"I tried reading books my father recommended to me by people like Hemingway and Steinbeck, but they just weren't my thing. A friend loaned me a David Eddings book and now I'm really into sci-fi, fantasy stuff. I can't turn the pages fast enough," says Doug Harney-Coyle, a reading buff in Wales.

While some reading buffs were slow bloomers, many say they were hooked as soon as they started to read as small children.

"I've been reading as long as I can remember -- since I was two-and-a-half and amazed my parents by reading out road signs on car trips. Now I probably spend about 50 hours a week reading," says Heather Lowe of Atlanta. She can read as many as 200 pages an hour.

Reading is a great way to spend your time. It's cheap, relaxing, educational and fun. Reading can be a lifelong activity.

Experts suggest that with more people choosing activities which allow them to stay home, and with the baby boomer population reading like never before, reading is on the rise.

People who want to turn their love of reading into a job might consider working in bookstores. There are occasionally jobs available as readers for publishing firms. Readers might even find work as editors for various types of publications.

Getting Started

If reading isn't already a part of your life, reading buffs say there's an amazing world out there to be discovered.

The first and most obvious place to start is a local library. Tell a librarian what your interests are. They will probably have lots of suggestions for you.

Another way to find out about great books to read is through word of mouth. "Ask your friends or people you think have similar tastes to yours what they've enjoyed reading," says Cline.

Finally, experts say you should read what you want to read, whether it's Harlequin romances or the classics.

"Try not to feel pressured," says Lowe. "Pick up something you can feel happy about reading and get away from the bustle and chatter of the world when you're doing it.

"While not everyone is a born reader, everyone can gain something from reading," says Lowe.


Reading is Fundamental
Lots of links here

Project Gutenberg
Online supply of fiction, history, non-fiction and academic articles

The Online Books Page
Links to all kinds of books online

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