“A book should be an axe to break the frozen sea within us.”
“Then I let the stories live
inside my head, again and again
until the real world fades back
into cricket lullabies
and my own dreams.”
EBOOKS ARE BOOKS.
AUDIO BOOKS ARE BOOKS.
PAPERBACKS ARE BOOKS.
HARDCOVERS ARE BOOKS.
BOOKS ARE GREAT.
DO I NEED TO REPEAT MYSELF??
“Reading, which was in decline due to the growth of television, tripled from 1980 to 2008, because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet.”
University of California at San Diego study
…. an axe to break the frozen sea within us.
When I first read those words I thought … well … have there ever been better words to describe a book.
I love about books & reading.
I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy.
And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child.
The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield
Clearly. I am a book reader.
I am a book lover.
I love the thoughts they create.
I love the paper stock and how it feels on the fingertips.
I love a good book cover.
I love BIG books.
“I’m a big believer in big books, and that doesn’t necessarily mean long books.”
Mark Z Danielewski
So I imagine when I write about books it has to encompass the books themselves and reading books and even collecting books on a shelf.
To some … reading is pleasure.
To some … reading is pain.
To some … yesterday’s generation was born with their nose in a book <and therefore better thinkers and speakers and literate than today’s generation>.
To some … today’s generation is … well … none of the thinkers, speakers, or even ‘literate’ as listed above … because they don’t read enough.
All that said … to everyone … reading is reading …and every generation has readers and nonreaders.
And while I love a paper book … I think it’s silly to judge e-book readers as anything but … well … book readers & lovers.
A book is a book.
Reading is reading.
Words, well written, are well written words.
“He reached out to stroke the spines of the books, as if they might whisper their secrets to him if he touched them.
But the books remained silent, as all good books tend to do when touched by people to whom they don’t belong.”
Christoph Marzi Heaven
And while all readers have special books, the ones that whisper their secrets to us, I will be honest … I have never met a book that didn’t ‘belong’ to me.
They all whisper to me.
But I also understand that books mean different things to different people. Even between readers. One of my favorite tumblr blogs shared this break down of reader segments.
Different Kinds of Readers
<from a-thousand-words blog>
– The Devourer:
Each book is a snack for this kind of reader–but it doesn’t mean that s/he won’t enjoy each book just as much.
– The Lover:
Books read by this kind of reader are read in hidden, stolen moments at the most unexpected times.
– The Slow Dancer:
Books are a treat that this kind of reader savors. Slow and steady wins this reader’s race, as his/her eyes take in and taste each and every word.
– The Addict:
Books are a conquest to this kind of reader. S/he will buy more books than s/he can read, but s/he will ALWAYS have something to read.
– The Classic:
Books of the past are a gift to this reader. Prose in the style of early contemporary authors, or stories written long ago, are favorites for this reader.
– The Die-Hard:
Genres are a way of life for this reader. S/he finds a niche and sticks to it–veering from what s/he knows for short bursts of time.
– The Advocate:
This reader is a lover of books. S/he is not just a reader, but an advocate of reading–hoping that the future will contain more readers.
Readers and reading always revolves around the following discussion.
We read for three purposes … information, understanding and entertainment <some reading research expert wrote this>.
And reading in today’s world is not about attention loss in the wake of technological gain <I do get so tired of old people’s lamenting about the Internet’s effects on our brains despite all the research to the contrary>:
“It’s not reasonable to think of technology — in the usual vaguely pejorative meaning of that term — as the enemy of reading.”
Alan Jacobs professor of English
To be clear.
Technology is not the enemy of reading. Technology has simply enabled a different source for reading.
And every generation will have those who care about reading … and those who will not.
Today’s world is not a regression of anything that once was … it is simply a progression of what is.
Maybe because it is because giving a Kindle <or Nook> seems like the must thing to do these days.
Maybe it is because I just saw a study on book ownership & literacy.
Maybe because I tend to think reading <anything … not just books> is critical to fighting ignorance.
Maybe because of all that I am taking a moment to talk about children’s literacy and what is happening with books <and reading>.
Maybe because of all of that I want to share something written by a teenager:
A major source of confusion is the fact that information from reputable sources is increasingly available on the Internet, which is far more convenient to use than hauling your ass to a library, browsing through the book collection, finding a giant tome, browsing through it to find what you need, and then rinse and repeat.
We’re keeping up with the modern world. And we’re definitely reading. We’re just not reading on physical paper, which is apparently a crime against humanity or something.
Hell, we’re reading plenty of things on physical paper too. Just not what we “should” be reading according to these “Damned-Whippersnappers”-crying adults. We’re reading not only fiction and fantasy (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.), but also memoirs (The Glass Castle and Night) and many other genres.
We’re reading, just not what and how you think we should.
I include this because I see a boatload of research floating around the internet that suggests there is a concerning negative trend with regard to reading.
There was one study that said almost 4 million children in Britain – one in three – do not own a book <and 12% have never been to a bookshop> and that the findings were very worrying because book ownership was linked to children’s future success in life.
I imagine I take a pause in reading this because it is tied so closely to books and book ownership. And I think that direct correlation or link suggests the wrong conclusion.
What do I mean? Young people are reading … maybe just not what or how we old folk want them to.
What they do is read a lot … of what they want to read a lot of.
And that leads me to … uhm … pleasure.
People do things that they find pleasure in doing.
There are a gazillion reasons that reading can matter but suffice it to say most of them are ‘do it because it is good for you’ type arguments.
And, by the way, that crap doesn’t persuade more young people to read for fun.
Fun just cannot be positioned as a duty or responsibility. Fun is … well … fun.
Fun as in a pleasurable and personal choice.
Therefore persuasion to read doesn’t really exist … it is the temptation … and inevitably reading because they want to … not because they have to.
Back to facts <and this fun thing>.
Children are reading from books and even computers less, but watching films and images on screens more.
The act of picking up a book may be in decline but the unquenchable thirst for knowledge is not lost.
Let’s just say the tap has changed into a water bottle.
Looking at an old Wall Street Journal I read the following by Ann Patchett:
I am a firm believer in the fact that it isn’t so much what you read that counts, it’s that you read … I’m all for reading bad books because I consider them to be a gateway drug.
People who read bad books now may or may not read better books in the future. People who read nothing now will read nothing in the future.
Ann is correct.
Any reading matters.
Remember when comics were the evil empire against ‘real’ literature?
This leads me to another piece of research <which does suggest we need young people to read more of useful type stuff>.
U.S. students missed large numbers of words they were expected to know on a new vocabulary section of a national exam <this is considered evidence of severe shortcomings in the nation’s reading education>.
The results showed that nearly half of eighth-graders didn’t know that “permeates” means to “spread all the way through,” and about the same proportion of fourth-graders didn’t know that “puzzled” means confused—words that educators think students in those grades should recognize.
Most fourth-graders did know the meaning of “created,” “spread” and “underestimate.” At eighth grade, most students knew “grimace,” “icons” and “edible.”
This all leads me to suggest we need some fresh approaches to encourage young people to read more. Fortunately for me … smarter minds than I have noodled this question & issue.
Reluctant readers, to me, are those who haven’t found the right book at the right time yet. YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list is a great source for finding books for these teens.
It’s important to encourage teens to read something that interests them, in any format that’s available — find out what a teen is passionate about and how he or she likes to read.
What doesn’t really matter is how people choose to read…what matters is that people still choose to read … the choice of how they do it, paper or plastic or digital, does not matter.
Conventional wisdom holds that YouTube, videogames, cable TV and iPods have turned us away from written words.
That “glowing streams of visual delights replaced paper and longhand letters shrank to bite-sized Facebook status updates.”
Conventional wisdom is wrong.
A large-scale study by the University of California at San Diego and other research universities revealed what some of us have long suspected: We’re reading far more words than we used to as we adopt new technologies.
Just look at Facebook and you can see that we’re almost certainly writing more than we used to.
If you’re reading thousands of words a day on a variety of devices, paper included, you need as much help as you can get in deciding which words to read.
Ironically, the same technologies derided by some for contributing to a lack of literacy — Facebook and Twitter — are full of recommendations of things to read.
Technology has actually made reading and writing even more essential parts of everyday life.
Social mores surrounding the act of reading alone in public may be changing along with increased popularity.
Suddenly, the lone, unapproachable reader at the corner table seems less alone.
Given that some e-readers can display books while connecting online, there’s a chance the erstwhile bookworm is already plugged into a conversation somewhere,
Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University.
For many, e-readers are today’s must-have accessory, eroding old notions of what being bookish might have meant.
“Buying literature has become cool again.”
And then there is this one bonehead … Jonathan Franzen … and his fear that ebooks will have a detrimental effect on the world – and his belief that serious readers will always prefer print editions.
This guy is … well … nuts.
Serious readers read. That would be a definition of a serious reader.
The vehicle in which the words appear before a reader is irrelevant.
He argues that for serious readers “a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience”:
“Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.
Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable?
I don’t have a crystal ball.
But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”
This kook also said: “it’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”
<insert: “what a stupid fuck” here from me>
Those words are nuts.
And, in fact, slightly silly <although, scarily, the words are coming from what some in today’s world consider a ‘real thinker’>.
Real things will always exist.
Real writers will always exist (and will either embrace the fragmentation or will simply be one f thise who can tune it out).
Real readers will always exist <and read whatever is put in front of them in whatever form it appears in … as long as it is worth reading>.
This guy associated the internet, and computer, as impermanence.
“Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper.
A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough.”
And, frankly, this type of drivel drives me nuts … and drives young people nuts.
Putting that wackjob thinking in my rear view mirror … let me share some truth <and good news>.
Today’s teens are avid readers and prolific writers.
Just different than what that reading & writing has looked like in the past.
Half of today’s teenagers don’t read books—except when they’re made to.
According to the most recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts, the proportion of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 who read a book not required at school or at work is now 50.7%, the lowest for any adult age group younger than 75, and down from 59% 20 years ago.
Back in 2004, when the NEA last looked at younger readers’ habits, it was already the case that fewer than one in three 13-year-olds read for pleasure every day.
The only thing that really concerns me is that the fact that 2/3rd of college freshmen read for pleasure for less than an hour per week.
And a third of seniors don’t read for pleasure at all.
And the number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure increased to 19% in 2004 from 9% in 1984.
And almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for fun.
It this ‘lack of pleasure’ concerns me because I believe books are to be enjoyed.
I believe words are to be enjoyed.
I cannot fathom anyone not appreciating ‘good words.’ While I am most likely naïve on this issue … I tend to believe those who find reading painful just have not found words that give pleasure. And they are out there yet to be found if only they would seek <or someone would put them in front of them>.
A person with no books … well … as one storyteller said … “a person with no books is inconsequential in today’s world. But. Without books how can we identify the inconsequential from the meaningful?”
What is a book?
It is an axe to break the frozen sea within us.
It is an agent of change.
One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
What is a book?
I will dispense with all the descriptors and pompous standpoints and simply suggest … a book is simply something consequential.
And we all need consequential things in our lives.