Reading for life

John Irving
John Irving, Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries

It’s a distressing trend: Only a minority of adults reads for pleasure. COVID (while ruining everything else) has only made things worse. Seeking escape, folks drift toward the brain-numbing distractions of booze, video games, and binge-watching TV.

That’s dire news for writers and publishers. What to do?

There’s a great article I want to recommend about the reading crisis in the latest Vox titled How to fall back in love with reading. Step one on the road to reading recovery is to remind yourself WHY you should read instead of blotting out your consciousness with passive entertainment. The Vox piece reminds us that reading is associated with longer, healthier lives. Reading also enhances social skills.

Of course, there’s a deep cultural bias at work, which associates recreational reading with social ineptness and sissiness. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As President Harry S. Truman once put it, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Think of Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and John Kennedy, all energetic, life-long lovers of the written word.

As for the stereotype of readers as puny, we have the vital examples of Ernest Hemingway and Yukio Mishima, just to name a couple. Author John Irving, pictured above, was a wrestler in college, so pugnacious that in his younger days, he’d take a seat at a bar with a book and a beer and wait for someone to pick on him. A few did, to their dismay.

17 thoughts on “Reading for life”

  1. Excellent post. You are so right. There is a reading crisis, second only (maybe) to the environmental crisis. Reading is such a pleasure, yet so many have fallen victim to the traps of the digital age. Glad to stand with you apart from the herd, my brother.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I recall how have university and graduate work followed by a job that required a tremendous amount of reading, I lost the habit of reading for pleasure. Then one weekend, while burning stumps from an area I had cleared for a vacation cabin, I sat by the fire to monitor it and read “The Right Stuff.” That was all it took, and I was back in the habit of reading for pleasure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alie,

      I can relate. School from 1-12 made reading a chore. The person who concocted the brainless, inhuman, other-worldly Dick and Jane series should’ve been banned from Earth.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my memories, kind of in line with John Irving, was that my wife for years played in a country band. I’d go with her to the bars and concerts, but I’d sit behind the amps reading. A lot of people couldn’t understand how I could do that, but it was a great time to catch up on my favorite authors or to read something new. Of course, sitting behind the amps might explain why I’m a little hard of hearing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree 100%, Mike. Reading is what helped develop our pre-frontal cortex. As writers and media ecologists from Marshall McLuhan forward forwarned, the electronic age is making humanity take a step backward in many ways. Neil Postman’s book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” is a near-perfect commentary on today’s media environment, in my opinion. Neat story about Irving. As a fellow reader/wrestler, I love his tenacity. Thanks for the inspiration, Mike.

    Liked by 2 people

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