Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Twilight of the Books

According to the New Yorker - it is the "Twilight of the Books" time, supported by statistics from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"...In 1982, 56.9 per cent of Americans had read a work of creative literature in the previous twelve months. The proportion fell to fifty-four per cent in 1992, and to 46.7 per cent in 2002. Last month, the N.E.A. released a follow-up report, “To Read or Not to Read,” which showed correlations between the decline of reading and social phenomena as diverse as income disparity, exercise, and voting. In his introduction, the N.E.A. chairman, Dana Gioia, wrote, “Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement.”"

Book sales have stagnated, even fallen, in the past few years, dropping from "8.27 books per person in 2001 to 7.93 in 2006."

As a reader, I'm stunned to learn that only 46.7 per cent of Americans have read a work of creative literature (poem, short story, novel) in 2002. (N.E.A. statistics). But the average American's household budget for books was 126$ in 2005, and the price of books as well as the cost of living having risen, I imagine that the number is even lower today.

What can be done about the death of reading? It's true that TV and computer games have pushed books aside, but we shouldn't let this happen without a struggle. What good can come of letting reading be phased out? The army general in me has already made up plans to ban televisision after 8pm, and install reading time instead "Unless there's a really good film or documentary on," says the hedonist in me. The army general huffs but usually looses to the hedonist. :-)

Last week I finished reading the Pullman trilogy (I'd only read the first book - seeing the film made me want to finish the series, and I really enjoyed it.)
Now I'm back in Katherine Kurtz' Deryni books, because I bought them for my neice, and I thought I'd quick read them before I wrapped them up. (Is this a Christmas faux pas, I wonder? It is, however, a family tradiction...) I am very careful not to fold the pages or crease the
My daughter is actually looking forward to reading Moliere's "Le Malade Imaginaire" over the holidays. I'm going to read two new mystery books I bought, plus the book I won from Linda Winfree and that I'm looking forward to reading as well.

Back to the article, it says that "Taking the long view, it’s not the neglect of reading that has to be explained but the fact that we read at all. “The act of reading is not natural,” Maryanne Wolf writes in “Proust and the Squid”" Which is interesting.
It also states that, "There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century."
Anyhow, reading the article in the New Yorker was interesting, here's a link if you'd like to take a look. I especially liked the replies of the illiterate peasants in a 1930's study.


Wynn Bexton said...

I know I don't read nearly as much as I should and my TBR pile keeps getting higher and higher. But one thing has appalled me (in regards to the article you quote) I have noticed in my classes that a lot of people, in particular in the novel writing class, actually do NOT read, or rarely read. I have now started the first night of every class (all 3 writing categories) by telling them I want them to read a book and by the 8ths week write a review on it. Even at that very few of them complete this task.
And I'm thinking of bringing this up in my writer's critique group too, because lately most of the talk at break is only about movies and never about the latest novel they've read. And just so I'm not being hypocritical about this, I have just borrowed "Love in the Time of Cholera" to read - and WILL. and after having seen an advance screening of "The Kite Runner" this week I simply MUST read that book too.

December/Stacia said...

This is what happens when we focus on teaching our children "self-esteem" (as if that doesn't come from actual acheivement, not matter how small) in schools instead of how to read and enjoy books.

Gabriele C. said...

You bought the Deryni books? Where the heck did you find them? I have such a hard time getting the series complete second hand, and one of the books I bought that way is such an abysmal quality I'd like to replace it with a better one.

Lol, I'm always reading the books I bought as Christmas presents first.

John Nez said...

Interestingly, this very same topic was the subject of a recent children's book of mine, titled 'One Smart Cookie'. In this fanciful tale, I tell the story of a family where the family dog reads more than the children!

I might add that my book has been totally and completely ignored by the critics... as if the subject of not reading was of no importance whatsoever.

Foolish me & my editor to ever think so!

Oh well, so it goes... I suppose my next book ought to be focused more important things. Bunny makes a new friend, or Bunny's first day at school.... that sort of thing.


Anonymous said...

Home free hardsexporn watch and tube pornmovieswatch tv. for amateur germansexmovie sites. Good pornmovietube watch !