sweet rebellion

When We Stop Reading

The day could come when it will seem an act of rebellion to be a reader. The idea that the novel is a dying art form has been debated and discussed for a while now. People fall on both sides of the debate, and I see validity in both arguments. For myself, I’m not even close to ready to give up on books as a medium, but I am concerned about the decline in leisure reading.

I’m concerned because it impacts us all, as a culture. I’ve said it before and I intend to keep saying it–we need to read. Not just writers, but everyone. There is a special brand of magic to be found in books that cannot be captured in film, theater or any other story-telling format. That doesn’t mean other mediums are lesser, just different, and I believe we get something valuable from all of them.

The problem with pushing people to read is that so many of us associate reading with school. When we were kids, we had about the same affinity for homework we’d have for a nice, moist petri dish of the swine flu, and reading was always a part of homework. That negative associate sticks, and it’s a bitch. Some of us were lucky enough to naturally enjoy reading (making grade school book reports a breeze), and some of us have since had positive experiences with fiction that have all but undone the horrors of assigned reading back in the day.

Some of us still loath it.

Telling an adult who’s never read a book for fun that they should give it a go comes off like telling an adult to give brussels sprouts another try. (I’ve fallen for that one. They still taste like ass.) It’s easy to get a non-reader to agree that reading is a noble pastime. Getting them to do it is the hard part.

I wish I had an answer to that dilemma. I don’t. I have no idea how you convince a non-reader to convert. Not only is there a potentially negative associate, but there’s also the whole time thing. You can watch a TV show in 30 minutes. Got a couple of hours? How about a movie? Books simply take more time. That alone gets in the way for a lot of people. It’s the one-two punch of carving out time to read (of all things) and the lack of instant gratification, of which our culture is a stalker-level fan.

What I do know is that those of us who are readers need to keep it up. Once in a while, the simple act of reading will convince a non-reader to check out a book. Plus, authors kind of need readers to make a living. In this digital age, going all analogue for your downtime is rebellious, but it’s a sweet rebellion.

So, mention particularly good books to friends, even if they aren’t readers. Occasionally give books as gifts–what a wonderfully devious trick that is. And most of all, keep making the time to read, yourself. You’re better for it, and you get to think of yourself as a geeky rebel. That’s never going to not be cool.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

2 Responses to sweet rebellion

  1. A certain techy in my life, who shall go unnamed, keeps threatening that very soon, book stores will be no more. Sadly, they could be right, but I don’t think they realize how much it hurts my heart every-single-time the say it.


    • dex says:

      Book stores have it rough. The one-two punches of Barnes and Noble plus Amazon made it hard for independent stores (and, in the case of Borders, even national chains) to keep their doors open.

      And I’m all for cheap prices and good selection. I order a lot from Amazon, myself, but I miss real bookstores. I miss the smell of paper in mass qualities. I miss holding a book I’m considering buying, reading a random page or two to see if the author connects with me. I miss talking to knowledgeable book store employees who can surprise and delight me with recommendations based on other books I’ve enjoyed. I miss the magic of book stores.

      Now, Barnes and Noble locations are closing in my area. I hope that reality is opening a door, even a tiny crack, for independent bookstores to make a comeback, though I fear competing with Amazon will be tough. I can tell you this, though–if a local bookstore opens near me, I’ll pay a few extra bucks to support them. The world without brick-and-mortar bookstores would be a sad, sad thing.


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