Saturday, August 18, 2007

Not One Book?

A while back, I was sitting near three men in a restaurant. The only part of the conversation that I overheard was when they were discussing the new Harry Potter book and one of them, in his early thirties and looking like he is a manager for a chain retail store, maybe car parts, said, "I don't think I've read a book since I was in high school." Not one book? Not even a mystery or a thriller? I have a hard time understanding how someone could deprive themselves of the pleasure of a sustained argument or a well-told story - even though I have one son who would rather be doing something physical, even chores, than reading a book. I see him avoid reading, but I still don't get it.

I find so much to value in books, so much understanding of the world around me and how other people think, that I can't really imagine how an adult would choose not to read. Althought the man probably reads the newspaper and maybe some magazines; he did say "a book", after all, not "anything". But those are short bits and pieces of thought, not a well-thought-through world such as those of Terry Pratchett or JK Rowling or JRR Tolkien or the better mystery writers, or any number of other authors. And they aren't a thoughtful narrative of how the world works or came to be the way it is. But books required sustained attention, and that is hard to come by in our culture unless you make a real effort - and read quickly enough to make it a reasonable effort. From his tone of voice, I don't imagine that the man set out to avoid books, it just happened, along with life; he sounded a little surprised. Maybe he will sit down to read one of the Harry Potter books this winter, and add at least one book to his list of reading.


The Magpie said...

One of the best things about the Harry Potter craze is how many kids it has gotten reading outside school - and reading long, involved stories that they can then discuss with their friends, like a TV show. The books get more complex as they go along, mirroring Harry's development while providing a nice ramp to improved reading for kids who read the entire series.

Trish said...

My son, nearly 17, loves his Harry Potter books and has just set about reading them all again from first to last. I am grateful that he enjoys reading because I have discovered that books, both fiction and nonfiction, enhance my life, supplement my education, and open my heart. Thank you for sharing.

Valli said...

Not one book? That is really scary... what about magazines? Not always quite so literary, but at least its reading!