All of us grow up once: we pass through a process of socialization. We learn about right and wrong and good and bad from our parents, then from our teachers or religious guides. Gradually, we are instilled with the common sense that conservative writers like Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson thought of as a great collective work. To them, common sense is infused with all that has been learned over time through trial and error, human frustration, sorrow and joy. In fact, a well-socialized being is something like a work of art.
Yet for many people, the process of socialization doesn't quite work. The values they acquire from all the well-meaning authorities don't fit them. And it is these people who often become obsessed readers. They don't read for information, and they don't read for beautiful escape. No, they read to remake themselves. They read to be socialized again, not into the ways of their city or village this time but into another world with different values. Such people want to revise, or even to displace, the influence their parents have had on them. They want to adopt values they perceive to be higher or perhaps just better suited to their natures.
As an "obsessed reader," I count myself among the revisers.
Every now and then I pause to reflect that as little as ten years ago I used to vacuum up utter bilge like Frank Peretti novels, Dave Hunt screeds, Texe Marrs conspiracy theories, completely unaware of their lack of reality, never mind literary merit. (Later, in college, I even got into heated dorm debates about Peter Duesberg's crap; I apologize to all involved.) These were not a necessary component of my Christian upbringing, in which reading, especially reading scripture, was modeled and encouraged by loving, God-fearing parents. But since indoctrination was emphasized over education, and obeisant acceptance of "the Truth" over critical analysis, I had no experience, no critical faculty for seeing garbage for what it was.
"Train up a child in the way he should go," the Good Book says, "and when he is old he will not depart from it." Every proverb has its exception. Thanks to a college education, free libraries, and the all-magical internet, I can marvel at my former days of innocent ignorance, and know that they're gone for good, in both senses of the phrase. And, in adopting a healthy skepticism, I haven't abandoned the values my parents tried to instill--honesty, integrity, hard work, loyalty, love--but I no longer search for divine wisdom in a centuries-old mishmash of history and myth.