I’m not usually a fan of statistics and polls, as they often disguise the truth as conveniently discrete facts. People tend to use them in support of ideas that they have not actually taken any time to think about. We’ve all heard someone spout off a claim like, “Well you know that owning a gun increases your chance of getting shot right?” But every once in a while there is a statistic that really shines some light on our serious problems.
When I heard in an article from the Atlantic that over the course of the past year, twenty five percent of Americans had not read a single book, I felt like someone had thrown a rock at the back of my head. Every shining piece of enthusiasm and hope that I had for the world was crushed by the knowledge that reading is becoming a rare thing. I had always known that books are becoming less and less popular, but the actual facts paint a bleak picture of just how bad the situation is. You see, when people don’t read, and don’t want to read, Kim Kardashian wins. I don’t mean that in some vague ideological, metaphorical sense. I mean that if people read more we wouldn’t have to put up with the wall of cultural/political/social bullshit that continues to climb higher and higher towards some future apex of anti-intellectualism. Reading is the antidote to so much of what is wrong with our world.
Books are capable of fueling ideas across the vast spectrum of human thought. There are good books and bad books, reading in and of itself is not the point that should be stressed. You can read People magazine on a daily basis and be worse off than if you spent your time trying to ignite your own farts. At least there is a science lesson somewhere to be found in that activity.
What good books are capable of, or rather good reading, is informing individual perspectives in a way that promotes true thinking. The goal can be to incite humor, impart information, spur creativity, or inspire spiritual connection. At the core reading books is about stretching your mind, improving the way that you think about the world. Pick the right subject and you actually can feel yourself becoming more intelligent, learning things that were completely unconsidered before. A book can put you inside the head of anyone you choose—scientists, poets, and sages. Which ever author you choose they can and will make you a better and more intelligent person. So please, if you do read, continue to do so and even more frequently. More importantly help the people around you to become interested in reading, it’s our only hope.