“Just a Book” vs. Literature: People Don’t Read As Much as they Used To

Yes, there is a reason why there aren’t any pictures in this post. Keep reading to find out. Just thought that I would let you know, so you won’t click away…

If you remember my post on classroom participation a while back, you may remember someone that I had talked about that I’d nicknamed Master Mentor II, as Master Mentor (the first) was a different person who had given me valuable advice on dating. Well, here is another little snippet of information from him that made me do a double take on society.

In today’s society, what with it being filled with electronics, technology, and gizmos, people are often sucked into their own little worlds and pay little or no attention to their environment around them. There is little time for the traditional pastimes that people enjoyed before the mass production of the smart phone, social media boom, and Internet age. Things such as going outside, actively finding real-life friends rather than just another Facebook friend, and creating new things, and possibly even thinking, are now considered old-fashioned or falling behind at the least.

Sadly to say, this includes reading.

While wandering in my little world one day (I think it was a Friday), Master Mentor II showed me an article on the decline in the reading ability of today’s teens. Although I can’t remember the correct link to the article right now (and I am really sorry for that), I was amazed to find several more articles on the same subject, like this one, as I had thought that the issue of limited reading wasn’t a huge problem. It seems to me as if I had been living a lie all along… (just kidding).

What’s more is that not only teens but the majority of society similarly seems to shy away from books with no pictures, several complex plots in each of their chapters, and an introductory analytic essay, prologue, and epilogue.

It’s kind of sad. I really had more hope in society. I mean, I used to read a lot, and my friends did too (not bragging- you should have seen our reading competitions). In elementary school, we had a reading program called Accelerated Reader, and every time you finished a book, you would take an online comprehension/vocabulary quiz and earn points depending on how well you did and how hard the book was (defined by the number of pages, reading level, etc.). After reaching a certain number of points, you would rise up in level, from 1 to 8, and levels would restart after surpassing 8. My best year has got to be in fifth grade, when I had reached level 8 about four times that year and was the top reader in my grade (possibly in the whole school, as in the sixth grade the AR program wasn’t enforced as much because they assumed that you were already a good reader). You could have gotten trophies back then for reaching level 8, so I got four just that year. Still have them, but my elementary school now, due to the economy’s decline, is no longer able to give out trophies. So I was lucky.

Anyway, people just don’t like reading as much as they used to. At least one picture must be present in the given text before any reading can be done easily. No SAT vocabulary can be used, as this would complicate things even further.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that you’d really want to click away now because I didn’t put any pictures at all in the post. This is the reason why I left out the images- to test your endurance. I would be really surprised if you had lasted this long without thinking, “Pfft. BOR-ing!” Here, have a virtual cookie if you’ve done so. And if you wish to continue, sorry, I will still not post any images in the post. To test you.

Back to the topic. It seems that whatever little reading that people do these days is mainly comprised of instruction manuals on how to set up their kids’ iPhones or online how-to’s of how to write their resumes. All reading seems to only be that of selections, texts, or samples that directly apply to our lives and what we need at the moment. There doesn’t seem to be any reading “for fun” anymore. Don’t believe me? Ask your child why they’re reading “Oliver Twist” or “Where the Red Fern Grows” in the first place. I’m sure that they can explain perfectly.

Still, there are a few who would love to read for fun. If you ever want to read, you should read things that have a good life lesson in them, as not only do they teach you something great about life and offer a fresh perspective on things, but they can fulfill the need for a purpose to read- to dispel boredom.

So here are some types of books that I suggest that you read, and some that you shouldn’t. Keep in mind that this isn’t a specific list, and it’s only my opinion, but try and see where I’m going.

Classics- A definite yes, although I’m sure that there are some exceptions. There always are exceptions. My personal favorites are ones about future anti-utopias. Books such as Orwell’s 1984 and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 are a definite yes for me, as they speak of the essence of the uniqueness and creativity of society being a necessary component in people’s lives.

Science Fiction- Novels? Yes, like Wells’ War of the Worlds. Comics? Only when you really need something to fill time.

Satires- I’ve only read one, Orwell’s Animal Farm. So not much opinion on this area, but a light yes.

Books about Life Problems- Not really, as I find that many are repetitive and relate to many of today’s problems. Too depressing. And I feel that you really can’t connect to the themes unless if you’ve been through the same scenarios. In that case, go ahead.

Comics- Again, only as a filler. This means all anime, sci-fi, etc. Even political comics in the newspapers, as you would be better off forming your own political opinions rather than seeing another’s view, although this may be a sensitive subject, so I’m not going on further…

Textbooks- For all of the students I know who have left their novels home and are forced to read their textbooks and planners- don’t do that forever. Please.

Picture Books- Seriously? Unless if you’re in the toddler range.

Fantasy- Harry Potter and a few other books with chapters are all that I recommend. Otherwise, I really think that they’re slightly similar to comics.

Romance- For you lovers and hopeless romantics out there, I’m sorry to say that many of the things in the books described are not realistic. Don’t try looking for your Prince Charming any time soon.

Reference Books- Again, like the textbooks, only as reference materials.

Magazines- If they are interesting to you and you long for them badly enough, go for it, but again I would really prefer my own views, unless if you’re looking for inspiration.

Ernest Hemingway novels- I have separated these from the rest as I have often heard from students that Hemingway’s books are harder to comprehend. Read them. Seriously. If you go out more and do some of the things that his characters do, you’ll probably get all of the little jokes scattered around his novels. They do have a pretty deep view on life, but only if you truly understand them.

There are, obviously, more categories, but this should cover a few for you to see what I’m getting at.

Read books with themes that aid you later on in life. Life lessons are more beneficial than pictures, instructions without emotion behind them, and banal chatter without any deep discussions.

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6 responses to ““Just a Book” vs. Literature: People Don’t Read As Much as they Used To

  1. Agreed for the most part. I used to tutor college students in a few subjects. Sometimes it went very well. Often it was terrifying. I’ll argue the fantasy one, though. There is much better fantasy out there than Harry Potter. Ursula K LeGuin does fantasy and sci-fi exceptionally well. You can also roughly put some of Meiville’s stuff in fantasy, I suppose. I also don’t think you’re giving comics/graphic novels the credit their due, and I really don’t enjoy reading comics that much. Grave of the Fireflies, Pride of Baghdad, Dark Rain off the top of my head. A reading diet comprised only of comics is, of course, not going to nurture the same mental and emotional development as properly cracking open a book, but I’d hardly call the whole of it filler. I hate romance, but Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago is amazing (although fantasy-ish as well). Is it strictly romance in the Fabio-bodice-ripper type? Nope, but is it a romance story and romantic? Definitely yes. I like talking about books 😛 And Fahrenheit 451 will always have a special place in my heart.

    • I agree that I may seem really critical of comics in the list. Really, really critical (sorry about that, nervous chuckle). I just wanted to state that reading comics and comics only isn’t exactly beneficial for the mind, and so that in itself is just filler. Comics are great in moderation, and I am a fan of several graphic novels (call me a geek- Watchmen, X-Men, and the whole Marvel/DC crossover was a huge deal for me at a younger age. Think that I may have some of those comics somewhere.).

      I actually haven’t read into much fantasy literature, so I don’t know much about it other than the general Harry Potter/Septimus Heap/Artemis Fowl series when I was younger and a couple of others, so any recommendations? Used to be interested, still interested.

      When I think romance, I do think of the whole Fabio-bodied Prince Charming type of novel, although thanks for catching Death with Interruptions and books like it (completely forgot about them to be honest). Those I find are interesting and contain many complex plots and characters, things that I love.

      Thanks again for catching some things that I had forgotten about. I love talking about books too, and read them whenever I have the time, although my collection of titles is slowly dwindling away, as I haven’t been able to find any books that I feel match my interests. I know this is kind of a guessing game, but judging from my blog posts (satirical, emphasis on creativity and independence, etc.) and above interests, can you recommend a couple of books for me? Just want a fresh perspective on what to read, from one fellow reader to another. Thanks!

      -Jason

      P.S. Fahrenheit 451 will burn forever in my memory. RIP Ray Bradbury, August 22, 1920-June 5, 2012. You were one of the first to start me on my reanalysis of society and the need for creativity and fun in life.

      • aaaagh I apologize if I came across as snippy! I saw a book post and went all ‘BOOKS. WE’RE TALKING BOOKS. LET US TALK BOOKS’ and forgot manners. So thrilled that I’ve met someone who has read Death with Interruptions! I highly recommend The Unreal and the Real by Ursula K. LeGuin, it’s an anthology of her short sci-fi/fantasy stories. Judging by your comment, you might also really like House of Discarded Dreams by Ekatarina Sedetaria (I have no clue how to spell her name). If you like darker/new weird stuff, China Meiville’s ‘Looking for Jake’ is a good one to start with if you haven’t run into his books yet. Oh, also God is Dead by Ron Currie Jr maaay be fantasy-ish, and definitely The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumiere. I may think of some more later but my migraine is being evil right now. Okay, your turn to recommend stuff so I can add to my pile of reads! 🙂

      • Thanks so much! And don’t worry, no harm done. Us fellow bookworms have got to help each other get the facts right on books! I would’ve commented the same thing. No worries.

        The newer darker novels are curious- might just pick up one to see how it goes.

        If you’re into satires, Animal Farm by George Orwell is a great one. Talking animals and such, so a kind of modern Aesop’s fable. A little hint if you get stuck reading it- the references are mainly towards Communism during Orwell’s era.

        Try checking out Antonia Michaelis’ Dragons of Darkness (translated into English from German). A symbolic journey through a younger overshadowed brother’s mind and his longing to be a man.

        Robert Cormier’s I Am the Cheese is a great, dark, novel. Google Books’s listing of it being only a crime novel is an understatement. If you read it, it just blows your mind, and symbolically documents the love of a boy for his father. One of the greatest novels that I’ve read, hands down.

        Dante’s Divine Comedy is great if you can understand his style (some of which has unfortunately been lost through most of the translations). Allusions are the key.

        Digital Fortress by Dan Brown is a classic action story with a taste of romance, set in our era. You might already know this, but he is the author of The Da Vinci Code, Inferno, etc. However, Digital Fortress isn’t as history dependent as those novels.

        Another Orwell, this time his 1982, which is a bit like Fahrenheit 451 in that it takes place in a future where reading and books are forbidden. However, Orwell takes it a step further and restricts basically all human emotion as well. I have shamelessly mastered Newspeak, if you’ve read it. Just putting it out there.

        Ayn Rand’s Anthem, although difficult to understand at first, is pretty much 1982 to the extreme. I only suggest reading it if you’re into the whole totalitarian thing. If I were to rate the three from mildly to extremely collectivist, it would be Fahrenheit 451, 1982, and Anthem respectively.

        Rand’s The Fountainhead is a great book in stressing the triumph of the individual.

        Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series is pretty interesting. Just finished reading the first, and I’m trying to get my hands on some sequels.

        And finally, try Hemingway if you haven’t! Although his conversations sometimes seem to be comprised of quick, one/two word questions and responses, he illustrates the outdoors-man who focuses on action rather than words. Although if you don’t like Hemingway, only 1-3 books from him are what I find most of the students I know recommend.

        Again, no worries about sounding snippy. I completely understand it, and I don’t want to give an argument without all of the points being equally and fairly discussed. Who really likes a one-sided or uneven argument, anyway? Fairness counts. And thanks for the great recommendations-will be looking into them in the future!

        -Jason

      • Thanks! I’ll definitely check these out. I swear I read Animal Farm waaaay too early in life and was both confused and traumatized. I think I was around 9? It had talking animals. Completely not what I was expecting.

        I have a love/hate relationship with Hemingway. I had to write a final paper on the code hero in A Farewell to Arms for the most exacting English professor I have ever met and another for the second most hardassed professor for his short stories, and it was an enlightening experience. Stressful too, lol. I’ll always love Hills Like White Elephants though. I did Supplemental Instruction for English classes and the dialogue was always a good point to start a conversation with. The number of students I had who thought Hills was an anti-abortion statement and that’s that made me want to start drinking like Hemingway. I think once I give myself some space from the academic-y approach to his work I’ll start enjoying his writing again. It’s good to be reminded of what I liked about his work and not just ‘crap. paper due. crapcrapcrap’ 😛

        Thanks again for the recommendations!

      • No problem! A Farewell to Arms was stressful for me as well, but I forced myself to see the little allusions and art that Hemingway uses, and it was really amazing to see all of them that he uses. Never did read Hills Like White Elephants, but I was going to get to that sometime in the future.

        And Animal Farm’s title does make me think of calm, story time scenes like Old McDonald’s farm, so I can sort of understand why you got traumatized after reading it. Like reading Peanuts comics and only expecting playtime children’s arguments rather than political viewpoints:P. Well, shows us that you can’t judge a book by its title.

        -Jason

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