Ipods, smartphones, Twitter, Facebook… in the 21st Century does anyone need to read a book? TONY VASSILEIOU thinks we do.
Reading is one of life’s great pleasures. By its nature, the great pleasure comes from doing it more; it comes from devoting time to it, contemplating it and savouring it.
It almost doesn’t matter what books you read, so long as you read another one afterwards.
Alas, such pleasures are not immediate and 21st -century-ish…which is why many younger people, myself included, do not routinely read books (and why they don’t routinely begin sentences with ‘alas’).
It’s a problem – and though I do not intend to excuse it, I do intend to explain it. Simply put, reading is generally plugged as educational, life-improving and enjoyable all at once. Wonderful. Whilst that is both admirable and true, it does not appeal to younger people.
More accurately – because that is both admirable and true, it does not appeal to youngsters.
Almost by definition, younger people don’t care about things like that. They should – of course they should – but they don’t. Immediacy is the key.
Live for the moment, and all that (we grow out of it eventually, don’t we?). They want to know what a given book is about, who else is reading it right now and how big a time-investment it will be to read it.
If you can give strong, appealing answers to these kinds of questions, the young are the keenest readers of all. A current example is 50 Shades of Grey, which is fast becoming the best-selling book of all time, if it hasn’t already. Why? Behold…
Youngster: So you think I should read 50 Shades of Grey. What’s it about?
Answer: Sex. Loadsa sex.
Youngster: Who else is reading it?
Answer: Everybody. It is trending on Twitter, articles in every newspaper and online magazines and it is the talk of the town – if by town, you mean planet.
Youngster: How long will it take?
Answer: Not long. Its simple, everyday language is designed to be easily read by everybody.
Sold! Questions of education and enlightenment do not come into it, and I would argue that that is absolutely fine.
Better that everyone reads 50 Shades of Grey than nothing at all. Interestingly, most people I know that have read the book have gone into it with realistic expectations.
Many have even come out critiquing the writing style and, with incredible, overriding importance, they have gone on to read other books.
For this reason, I am fully in favour of books like 50 Shades of Grey. Anything that gets people reading is a good thing, and I mean anything.
The Twilight series is another example. To be gentle, it’s not my cup of tea – but if 1 in 10 who read those books go on to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we should be happy. We should take 1 in 100. It almost doesn’t matter what books you read, so long as you read another one afterwards, right?