IVP - Strangely Dim - Escape from Books?

August 9, 2009

Escape from Books?

A friend on Facebook(tm) wrote the following (he's in that time of life when you're predisposed to write in all-caps):

READING IS STUPID. I HATE IT. I HATE THAT [MY SCHOOL] IS FORCING US TO LIKE READING. YEA THE ART IN READING BLA BLA BLA IS GETTING OLD. I HATE IT AND WHEN HS IS OVER I WONT EVER PICK UP A BOOK AGAIN.

Some of the responses from well-intentioned old people in his life:

Maybe it's just the type of stuff you're required to read. Books bring a special dimension to our lives but we don't all appreciate "text books". I know I don't!
 
Grab a copy of "The Shack" and ponder it for a while. It has changed many a life . . . most positively!

 

Reading is a gateway to many other things. . . . Please don't give up on reading all together just because you don't like the books that are "requried" [sic] to read. Not everything in life is fun, but if you give it a chance, it may open up doors in your mind. I know that sounds weird, but I'm weird (you know that!)
Me, I'm not sure what to tell him--in part because I'm not sure how anyone forces anyone else to like anything, but mostly because in his mind at least, he's not betraying books; books have betrayed him.
 
So Many Books cover.jpgMy friend isn't alone in his frustration with books as a medium. Comedian Jim Gaffigan complains about people who give books as gifts: it's like giving homework. His response? "I got a present for you; go mow my lawn." Even poets and essayists recognize the privileged position books have been given. In his book So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, Gabriel Zaid seems to side with my young friend: "The cost of reading would be much reduced if authors and publishers respected readers' time more."
 
I've talked to friends who have told me that a book has three chapters max to capture their attention; that's being gracious, actually, when you think about it. Zaid suggests that, since there are more books published every year than anyone could hope to read in a lifetime, and since books are "archiving the world's knowledge" at such an unachievable pace, the act of reading one book is tantamount to deselecting thousands of others, which could be taken to mean that reading a book makes a person steadily more ignorant.
 
I don't believe that, of course, particularly since I'm paid not to believe that. But I'd like to come up with a way to defend reading books as a rewarding discipline that doesn't insult the intelligence of what another friend once called "reluctant readers." I'd like to explore ways of making books a little less lecture and a little more conversation. If we can figure that out, maybe more people will escape into books than escape from them.
 
Any suggestions?
 
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at August 9, 2009 11:40 PM Bookmark and Share

Comments are closed for this entry.

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Strangely Dim

Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

Subscribe to Feeds