The Fading Art of Reading for Pleasure

My mother taught me how to read before I started kindergarten.  Reading for pleasure was bred into my very bones.  I MUST always have something handy to read.  I have been to Ancient Rome, fled a burning Atlanta ahead of the Yankees, flown past the solar system, stalked vampires in a small Maine town, ridden giant worms in the desert, slain mammoths, patched up a wounded Highlander fleeing from the English, experienced any number of brave (and chilling and glorious) new worlds.  A well-written book by an imaginative writer is one of life’s true delights.

We have bookshelves in every room of our house.  One of my husband’s favorite past-times is making a Barnes and Noble run.  I prefer to go the library, probably because there are only a handful of authors I trust enough to buy their new books outright.  I prefer to borrow first, and if I know I will re-read, I will THEN go buy it.

I take my book with me when I run errands.  I read during my lunch hour, while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office or the DMV, even on vacation.  Last Christmas my husband gave me a Kindle, and when I discovered I could borrow library books (on my Kindle!) I was in seventh heaven.  I have borrowed the latest Gillian Flynn, Dan Brown, and Kate Attkinson novels without having to change out of my pajamas.  I get antsy when I am coming to the end of a book and I haven’t decided what to read next.

What I find troubling, however, is that I have encountered many people who don’t read.  To me, that’s like saying, “I don’t breathe.”  Unlike computer games or watching TV, where everything is portrayed for you, books force you to create the image in your head.  Clark Gable was an excellent Rhett Butler.  I don’t quite know that was how he looked when I first read Gone With the Wind.  The monster in Stephen King’s IT was a thousand times more frightening in my head than the feeble portrayal in the mini-series.  My husband and I have instilled in our children a love for reading (we fought over who got to read the final Harry Potter book first.  Since I paid for it, I won) but I wonder how many other children are spending time with computer games or checking Facebook statuses or texting rather than settling down with a big, juicy novel and immersing themselves in another world?  One can explore and experience and encounter in the safety of one’s own living room, trusting the author to be a faithful guide.  After all, if you love to read, you are never bored.


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