It’s no exaggeration to say that these books saved me: from a life of poverty, stress, depression and isolation.
James Baldwin, one of the authors who spoke to my mind the most, once said it this way:
“You think your pain and grief is unparalleled in the history of the world, but then you read. These are the books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me to all people who were alive, who had never been alive.
This is the inimitable power of literature, to give context and meaning to life’s trials and triumphs. This is why it was particularly distressing that Jordan Weissmann of The Atlantic underlined tuesday that:
“The Pew Research Center reported last week that almost a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t deciphered a paperback, turned on a Kindle, or even started playing an audiobook in the car. The number of non-book readers has almost tripled since 1978.”
The details of the Pew report are quite interesting and somewhat counter-intuitive. Among American adults, women were more likely to have read at least one book in the past 12 months than men. Blacks were more likely to have read a book than whites or Hispanics. People aged 18 to 29 were more likely to have read a book than those in any other age group. And there was little difference in readership between the urban, suburban and rural population.
I understand that we are now inundated with information and that people’s reading habits have become fragmented to some extent by nuggets of text messages and social media, and that takes up a lot of the time that could otherwise be spent on long-term reading. . I understand. And I don’t have a troglodyte vision of social networks. I participate and enjoy.
But reading texts is not the same as reading a text.
There is no intellectual equivalent to giving yourself time and space to get lost in the minds of others, because in doing so, you find yourself.
Trust me, the little boy walking towards the Kmart checkout with the picture book pressed to his chest.