Reading is demanding. “You are required, first of all, to remain more or less immobile for a fairly long time.” These wise, written words from Neil Postman make me laugh. The person reading Amusing Ourselves to Death, the book from which I borrowed the quotation, obviously knows the validity of the statement if they are doing exactly that. The person doing anything other than reading also knows it to be true, which is probably the reason they aren’t reading. Ha! Postman delves into a painfully subdivided explanation, but you get the picture: Reading demands time and takes both physical and mental effort, but it’s worth it.
During my junior year of college, I wrote a humorous and persuasive speech, asking viewers to reevaluate how we critique teachers. I drew attention to aspects of the profession that typically result in villainizing our educators i.e. standardized testing. The big problem with teacher evaluation is that it fails to quantify all positive influences educators have in a student’s life. Books have an immeasurable, near mystical, influence similar to a teacher. My mother was an English teacher, the motivation for writing the speech, and the reason I ever picked up a book. I’m a slow reader and easily distracted. Due to some evidence in school and the nature of the speech I decided to go in for testing to see if I have a reading disability. I do. No, it isn’t dyslexia. I realize there are conditions immensely more challenging than my inability to focus. Yet, if I hadn’t had an English teacher for a mother, I would probably avoid literature all together much like a huge population today.
This is for the people who say they don’t like to read or aren’t good at it. Read anything. I don’t think I finished one book, cover to cover, in college, a feat my younger self perhaps accomplished only twice during the four years of high school. Maybe the disdain came from being told what to read. Maybe I had more exciting things to do. All I know is consuming literature in 2015, through both tangible text and audiobooks, gave meaning to my personal narrative. Since then I’ve made an effort to consume a variety texts: fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, lectures.
Even though reading requires one to be “immobile” as Postman puts it, the mind is hardly static. Books can change a person’s perception of world in a way that isn’t possible though an argument. Discovering an idea in a story I think is more compelling because it has the illusion of developing internally. Of course it isn’t 100 percent organic. The author wrote it; but, unlike an argument where the crux of changing someone’s mind is based on an “us” v “them” battle, the reader can leisurely contemplate and observe an idea unfold. Then the butterfly effect takes over. Extrapolate that idea over the course of a life time and it’s apparent the person who reads or listens to books has a more elaborate evolution.
Here is an up-to-date list.
*** Last edit 9/7/2017 ***