On the news that Mark Zuckerberg is aiming to read at least 26 books in 2015, I've been thinking about what we need to do to get people to read more. In the book world, we often hear that young people never read anymore because they're too busy taking selfies and sexting but I don't think this is true. At least not wholly true.
When I was in my early twenties (I'm in my early 40s now), we passed around books which were quirky (Tom Robbins, Hanif Kureishi) or spoke to specific sub-groups (Edmund White, Rita Mae Brown) or writers that came from our area (Tom Spanbauer, Jack London) or which spoke to our specific sensibilities (Milan Kundera, Barbara Kingsolver). It wasn't the same 10 writers being talked about at the same time (which is the way it is now).
Though I'm not too optimistic that Zuckerberg will choose "good" books, his reading pledge is important in that it makes reading into something people should WANT to do. We have to have leaders and innovators stress the importance of reading. We have to create the social message that reading makes one a more interesting, complex person. We have to broaden the appeal of books so that young people realize that reading can be a highly individualized activity that doesn't have to adhere to the"trends" in the same way everything else does.
I often hear from people I know: "Oh, I'm just too busy to read," but I never believe this. Everyone is
(It's unfair of me to be so judgmental, I realize: I sometimes just want to tune out the world when coming home from work, especially this time of year after a long day. Sometimes I just can't read anymore after reading all day long, I also have a mindless video game on my phone.)
The thing is, we can't do everything: we can't see every TV show and read every news story and play all the games everyone is talking about, plus keep up with FB and Twitter and Instagram. We have to make choices about what's important. And reading always adds more to my life than giving in to all the chatter that we're constantly bombarded with. But, yes, I give in and deal with the chatter: I have all the accounts that everyone else has. I waste time on FB and other time sucks despite myself.
By making reading something to aspire to, people will make it an effort. I'm a big believer that people who read (novels, magazines, history, non-fiction, even CRAP books!) are more interesting, easier to talk to, and more intelligent.