I was sort of half listening to Talk of the Nation on my way back to work from lunch this afternoon when I heard this:
A new poll shows that book sales are flat and that one quarter of Americans don't read books at all.
This makes me so very sad, but it doesn't really surprise me. I read an exorbitant amount, I know. It's possible that I read more than all my friends, but I've never really paid much attention. Reading is not a competetive sort of sport. Several of my friends are certainly avid readers; a book geek like me can't survive without a few other book geeks in their life. I also have many friends who never read, or who have been reading the same book for years (meaning they pick it up every few months and read a chapter or two). Other friends never read fiction at all, and while I am glad they are getting their noses into books, I feel like they are really missing out by sticking to biographies, essays and text books.
There is something truly amazing about reading a good novel. There is nothing quite like picking up a book, cracking open the cover, and then losing yourself in a world completely unlike your own. I sometimes get a little too into the book I'm reading, actually. I'll take on certain characteristics of the protagonist, or pick up mannerisms from the characters. I also find myself relating things in life to "a book I read once" several times a day. I tend not to mention it to the people I'm with though because it makes me sound even geekier than I already do.
Not only are the people who don't read missing out on a truly wonderful experience, but they are contributing to the general downfall of out nation's intelligence. Reading does wonders for a persons ability to express ideas, thoughts and feelings. It opens your mind to situations you might have never thought of and experiences you otherwise would never have. I know that Americans have tragically short attention spans these days too and I wouldn't be shocked if reading helped lengthen those as well. It makes sense- it takes much longer to read a story than it does to watch the same story on TV. Especially if said story is well written and detail-rich.
In the words of Jane Austen: The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid
Now, excuse me while I go bang my head against the wall for the illiteracy of my nation.