Reading

There is an article in the February 18-25 issue of Time magazine that caught my eye.

It begins, “‘The book is dead’ is a refrain I hear often.  When I say what I do, people ask, ‘Does anyone read anymore?’   It’s a throwaway remark: the book is obviously dead, or at least dying, right?”

The author is Lisa Lucas, who is director of the National Bok Foundation, which celebrates the best literature in America, and is the presenter of the National Book Awards.

Lisa Lucas

Her response is: “False.  When people say fighting for books is a futile battle, that’s the moment when my optimism kicks in.  A person who wants to lament the death of reading with me is a person who wants to be convinced otherwise.  I’m here for this fight.

“Not long ago I came across the Pew Research Center finding that 24% of Americans didn’t read a book in 2017.  Now, what I saw was that 76% of Americans did read a book.  If three-quarters of any group is participating in an activity, then you ae surrounded by people doing that very thing.  Meanwhile, book sales have increased every year since 2013.  The American Booksellers Association, which promotes independent bookstores, says its membership grew for the ninth year in a row in 2018.  While headlines proclaim that books are dying, the research says we are a nation of readers.

“Of course, we know that not everyone reads.  But we need to better understand who does and why, and how to encourage them to read more and more joyfully.  We need to figure out who has been left out of the conversation about books and welcome them into the fold with open arms.

“My colleagues at publishers, libraries, bookstores and literary nonprofits share such challenges. Our job is to build readers.  And we do this because the profound pleasures of a good book are for everyone, everywhere.  Storytelling is how we explore and make sense of this world and understand one another.   Because books absorb us and harness our imaginations, they are an essential medium for storytelling.

“Each day, more books are being published that speak to every kind of person, from every kind of place.  And so I believe readers can be built.  After all, we have unlimited invitations to this party.”

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