The Incentive Seeker
By Carla Insley

I need to feel completely involved in the content of what I’m reading in order to consider the experience pleasurable. I can appreciate and enjoy just about any kind of literature I come across in school, but I seek out only true escapism when looking for a pleasure read. The reason behind this interest is simple – I need reading material to grab my attention in order to give me the incentive to pick up anything at all.
My parents could never get me to sit down and read a book when I was a kid. It’s not that I was hyperactive or overly energetic, I just did not see the point of taking the time to read something that wasn’t required for school. Scholastic reading programs with flashy incentives were created for kids like me. ‘Book It’, my personal favorite from elementary school, rewarded progress with free Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas. This program took advantage of the given fact that kids will do just about anything for pizza. I never became a voracious reader, but I dappled in enough Babysitter’s Club, fairy tale, Nancy Drew, and Little House on the Prairie books to earn several trips to Pizza Hut.
My need for incentive dissipated only slightly as I grew up. By the time I entered high school, I had begun to recognize this limitation and develop strategies to fix it. I loved reading and knew how good it was for me, I just had to learn how to make that feeling enough of an incentive.
I discovered my motivation for reading in the idea of getting away from my real life by entering familiar fictional worlds. I wanted escapism, but only from certain types of books. I had no interest in fantasy, science fiction, or detective stories. As a teenage girl, my ideal world was full of romance and attractive people. I found myself drawn to slightly racy romance novels, although I was careful to conceal my interests by reading them only at night. I was less self-conscious during my historic romance stage, but I was always careful to keep my reading habits very private.
Even today, I hate reading in public. I love to lie down, recline, snuggle down, and generally relax within the privacy of my own home or some other relatively concealed area. During breaks between semesters, I read in bed, traveling in airplanes, lying on the beach, curled up on the couch, or back in the corner of some coffee shop. I love the feeling of being unobserved because it allows me to get unapologetically lost within a fictional world. I still have a soft spot for romantic fiction, although I’ ve lost interest in trashy novels. (I get my fix for the slightly risqué side of things by consuming month after month of Cosmopolitan magazine.)
The best example of the kind of enveloping fictional world that I choose to enter is the Harry Potter series. Like most of my book choices, I based this selection on recommendations from friends and popular reviews. As a fourth year UVA English major, it’s hard to admit that the best books I ’ve read recently are children’s books, but J. K. Rowling is an incredibly entertaining author. Her stories grab your attention from the beginning and plunge you into the fantastic world of magic and intrigue. My overall favorite type of book could be described as having this kind of attention-grabbing involvement with a more mature romantic twist. Getting lost in this kind of fictional world has become my own incentive for reading. Even so, a free personal pan pizza might still help make the experience more pleasurable.