by Jeff Gunhus
More likely than not, if you are reading this on a blog about books and reading, you’re immediately wondering what I’m talking about. Chances are that you’re an adult and that you are not only a reader of fiction, but perhaps a devourer of fiction. That, my friend, puts you squarely into the minority.
A recent poll showed that 41% of Americans had not read a book of fiction in the last year. Another 25% had only read between 1-5 books. Making a (very mathematically convenient) 66% of Americans having read less than 5 books last year. Ouch.
This subject came up at recent dinner party where a friend of mine shamed the other dinner guests into admitting that while they had purchased one or two of my books, most of them had not yet read them. It was his house (and his wine), so I only half-heartedly asked him to leave the poor people alone. Even so, the excuses came fast and furious.
“No time in the day.”
“I barely have time to read my emails.”
“It’s not just your book, I haven’t read any books.”
It was that last comment that got me Googling for a poll on the subject.
Unfortunately, pollsters in the 1940s and 50s were more concerned with questions about a world at war and nuclear holocaust than the reading habits of the American adult, so it’s hard to say how different this 66% number is compared to our past versions of ourselves. But it just feels like it’s not good. Even if it were the same as if was five decades ago, we still ought to do better.
To that end, here are my reasons why adults ought to grab a book and get to reading.
1) It’s fun. Once you get into a book, you remember how much it actually was to be totally engrossed in a good, well-written story. It’s awesome.
2) It’s easy. With electronic devices in every pocket, you can read anything, anywhere. How liberating.
3) It makes you think. Even the pulpiest of novels will make to you pause and think about the world outside your daily experience. A book like The Alchemist might just change your life.
4) It’s better than TV. An hour-long drama can’t compete with the depth and breadth of a novel. How many movies have you watched and thought, “Wow, that was so much better than the book”? Get my point?
5) It reduces stress. A great book will give you a deep, meditative state as you live in a different world for a while. Go there and enjoy it.
As I said, chances are you are one of the 33% already reading 5+ books a year. If that’s the case, then forward this to your friends who aren’t reading enough. Based on the statistics, you have a lot of forwarding to do!