So you can read my books

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Another national survey has shown that

Americans — particularly teenagers and young adults — are reading less for fun.

At the same time,
reading scores among those who read less are declining,
and employers are proclaiming workers deficient in basic reading comprehension skills.

So that’s the bad news.

But is all hope gone, or will people still be drawn to the
literary landscape?

And what is it, exactly, that turns someone into a book lover who keeps coming back for more?

 There is no empirical answer.

If there were, more books would sell as well as the “Harry Potter” series or the "Twilight"
series or "The Hunger Games" series or “The Da Vinci Code.”

The gestation of a true, committed reader is in some ways a magical process,
shaped in part by external forces but also by a spark within the imagination.

Here are some thoughts:

1.) The right book at the right time can ignite a lifelong habit.

     It can be like a drug in a positive way.  If you get the book that makes the person
     fall in love with reading, they want another one.

2.)  Most often, that experience occurs in childhood.

     In “The Child That Books Built,” Francis Spufford, a British journalist and critic,
     writes of how “the furze of black marks between ‘The Hobbit’'s pages
     grew lucid, and released a dragon,” turning him into “an addict.

3.) But what makes that one book a trigger for continuous reading?

     For some, it’s the discovery that a book’s character is like you,
     or thinks and feels like you.

     In an interview, Mr. Alexie, a prize winning author of children's literature,
     said “The Snowy Day” by Jack Keats transformed him from someone who read
     regularly into a true bookhound.

     “I really think it’s the age at which you find that book that you really identify with
     that determines the rest of your reading life,” Mr. Alexie said.

     “The younger you are when you do that, the more likely you’re going to be a serious reader.

It really is about finding yourself in a book.”

4.) for others, it’s not so much identification
     as the embrace of the Other that draws them into reading.

     “It’s that excitement of trying to discover that unknown world,” said Azar Nafisi,
     the author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran,”
     the best-selling memoir about a book group she led in Iran.

5.) Certain books become phenomena.

      like those in the Harry Potter series or “The Da Vinci Code” or,
     to a slightly lesser extent most books recommended for Oprah Winfrey’s book club —

     can, in tempting people to read in the first place, create habitual readers.

     Perhaps more often, however, those readers just wait for the next “hot” book.

The question of whether reading, or reading books in particular,

is essential is complicated by the fact that part of what draws people to books

can now be found elsewhere — and there is only so much time to consume it all.

So?  What do you think?  Is there any hope that reading will continue past this video generation? 

What book started you reading?  Why do you still read today? 
     a LEAGUE OF FIVE favorite:


  1. It's the parents who teach children to love books or not. My wife and I both read constantly, and we also read each day to our sons, so it's only natural that they love reading. It's pretty sad to see so many kids these days not read, and I blame the parents.

  2. My mother loved to read, and I learned to read at 5, so when I went to 1st grade, I already knew how. I still read a lot and have a few books always in the TBR stack.

    Books were the key to knowledge, in my eyes. Hubs and I have always encouraged our kids by taking them to the library when they were young.

    I agree with Ted's comment. A love of reading needs to be fostered, and there needs to be someone to discuss books with, when one's tastes are still forming.

    Already, colleges are bemoaning the fact that students cannot write at college level. Businesses hire speech writers because their managers can't express themselves without getting into verbal trouble.

    Early books I read: Heidi, and Black Beauty, books that made me want to write, and The Hobbit which taught me to love Fantasy. Asimov, Clarke, and Herbert made me love scifi. Why wouldn't I read?

  3. My parents were avid readers, so I was exposed to it early. I was a bit of a loner and read books all the time as a kid. It think it was when I discovered genres I enjoyed (science fiction and fantasy) that I jumped into adult books and was really hooked.
    Maybe that's the best was to hook a new reader. Keep exposing him to new genres until one catches his interest - and then be prepared to supply more.

  4. I've always enjoyed reading, but liked shorter stories even as a kid. My mother bout all those little Disney books, and I think I read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, Black Beauty, and the Laura Ingles Wilder series. And of course Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe series.

    The first book that I like that I picked myself was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. One of my friends gave me The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey, and that was what really hooked me. For a while Anne McCaffrey was all I read, until finally I had to move on to other authors.

    I still love reading, but I just don't have the time for it anymore. I have so many new books by my favorite authors still sitting on the shelf, covers never cracked open. Soon, I expect to get back into the habit.


  5. Ted:
    You're right I believe. My mother read to me during the day and at bedtime. She made sure to buy Golden Books which detailed of the heroes on TV and movies I liked so as to encourage me to read on my own.

    Libraries were my refuge and the portal to the whole wide world. It is no accident I have Victor Standish make it his refuge from hard streets, too.

    None of the males I work with read. And only three of the females in the entire center read at all. Very sad.

    Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY was my portal to the realm of awe and wonder. THE TIME MACHINE and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS and THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND along with SHERLOCK HOLMES swept me up into the world of reading for pleasure.

    I was a loner, too. Ulysses and Sherlock Holmes who prevailed due to their minds and their will to endure were role models.

    That's why libraries are so important: they expose students to all the genres -- someone is bound to find one that fascinates.

    The short stories of Sherlock Holmes helped me on those school nights when home work drained most of my time. But I would just get into the story when it would be over. I enjoyed novels more and series of novels the best. :-)

    Roger Zelazny swept me up into the genre in which I now write. He was, and is, my inspiration -- hence his presence in my writing manuel, GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY!

    Audiobooks help me to read more as now I hear them on my blood runs. Odd Thomas, Christopher Snow, and Harry Dresden tell me their tales on long, dark runs. May your weekend be great, Roland

  6. My kids are big readers and I want to keep encouraging!

  7. My kids are big readers and I want to keep encouraging!