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Readers on the Endangered List

In a New Yorker article titled “Twilight of the Books What will life be like if people stop reading?” Caleb Crain examines the hard evidence that the culture of readers is going the way of Asian tigers.

“Between 1982 and 2002, the percentage of Americans who read literature declined not only in every age group but in every generation—even in those moving from youth into middle age, which is often considered the most fertile time of life for reading. We are reading less as we age, and we are reading less than people who were our age ten or twenty years ago.”

And he follows with this gloomy prediction about the direction of society, suggesting that as a group of TV watchers whose brains become passive instruments for the advertising industry.:

“There’s no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special “reading class,” much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century. They warn that it probably won’t regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become “an increasingly arcane hobby.” Such a shift would change the texture of society.”

Why not buy a book for the holiday season. Give it to a friend, relative, your spouse or child; pull them away from the TV and introduce them to the world of words from which they can produce their own images and excite an imagination that lies ready to be ignited.

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