Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be
chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts,
others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly,
and with diligence and attention.
~ Francis Bacon ~
Nobody reads for fun anymore. Reading scores are declining. Publishing sales are down. I was an English Lit major and I don’t read anymore. The kids are running around driving me nuts, I can’t read. If you listen to people lately books are done for. I don’t know about that. For a lot of years books were our only source of bringing the greater world into our dull lives. Then came monsters like movies and TV to distract us. Despite the billions of dollars of advertizing compared to publishing lackluster PR efforts they didn’t kill reading. The internet won’t kill books either.
”Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
— J.K. Rowling
There’s some kid out there reading Harry Potter right now. She’s discovering the kids at Hogwarts think and feel like her. She’s going to move on when she runs out of J.K. Rowling and the whole library is waiting. It happened to me. In his acceptance speech for the National Book Award Sherman Alexie thanks Ezra Jack Keats, author of “The Snowy Day.” “It was the first time I looked at a book and saw a brown, beige character – a character who resembled me physically and resembled me spiritually, in all his gorgeous loneliness and splendid isolation.” Sherman Alexie is a Spokane Indian who grew up on the reservation. The girl who’s reading Harry Potter and that kid in the Exeter Public Library have no connection to a childhood like that but we all discovered reading together.
Why do I read? I should go on about how it makes me smarter and enriches my life. The truth is I enjoy it, it’s my drug and escape. A day I don’t read is like not having a cup of coffee in the morning. I need to read when I’m discouraged by life. I need to cry when an author catches me up in the moment. I laugh and curse at the characters and events in books too. I’ve been to a million worlds and met a cast of thousands. They’re my friends and enemies and they’re all right there on the bookshelf when I need them. I spend more money on books than clothes and there have been more than one occasion when I blew the food budget on some book I just had to read.
Why do people stop reading? That’s a question I don’t understand. There seem to be a million excuses. Obligations press in on them when they get a quiet moment. The kids need to be fed or the laundry needs to be done or they’re working too hard. It’s easy to hit the remote button or click around the internet. Reading requires practice. It’s easy to classify reading as a luxury. Maybe that’s why they sell so many self help books. You can get your reading jones satisfied while indulging in something practical. You’re never going to build that porch or take up yoga but you feel productive. Maybe you just discovered sports and boys like the author Beth Lisek.
“Then I stopped caring about books for a good long time while I honed my skills at sports and boys. I was a total outdoorsy jock child who would race through whatever books I had to read for school just to put them behind me. This went on for about twenty years. Not very cool, I know. It’s embarrassing to admit how many books I technically ‘read’ that didn’t stick with me at all and I like to fantasize about how much smarter I could be right now if only I’d been truly reading that whole time.
“GOOD NEWS. I fell in love with reading again. Finally. It happened a couple years after I started writing and I felt like I was unearthing a lost civilization. You know those ladies who admit to Oprah that they’d never had an orgasm and then start freaking out about how amazing it is, while simultaneously feeling strange and incredulous about the dry spell? That’s how I feel. I love you, books. You make me feel like a human.” –Beth Lisick
Yeah Beth I love books too. They make me human.
When I look back, I am so impressed again
with the life-giving power of literature.
If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of
myself in the world, I would do that again by reading,
just as I did when I was young.
~ Maya Angelou