The Book is Dead


The Book is Dead

You didn't think I was serious, did you?

Sometimes I feel like I have to get my students' attention when I tell them how important reading is for our lives to be rich, full, and well-lived. I'll make fun of how they tell me they haven't read a book from cover to cover in years. If you aren't reading, then the book is dead, I'll say. Why do we care about all these dusty old tomes if you, the young generation, the people of the future, aren't reading? Maybe we should just be scrolling through people's witty tweets. Maybe that's all we really need to read anymore.

By this point, even the most reluctant readers in my class are usually reading. Come on, they say. We know tweets aren't really the same. And they're right; there's something missing in our lives if we give up on immersing ourselves in a story that's longer than a few dozen words. We lose the sense that our own lives are narratives that it is our job to shape. We risk forgetting that there is a longer arc to our lives than simply the narrative of the past few frantic days, the twenty-four hour cycle of scandal, sensation, outrage, and loss of attention. If we lose that long perspective on things, we risk forgetting what makes a family last or a marriage succeed; we forget how justice and opportunity changes in a nation and how people learn lessons and become wiser as they get older.

Still, there are an awful lot of people out there who aren't doing a lot of meaningful reading. Do you read more now or less than you did before? Do you spend more time with your eyes on a phone or on a book? Do you think more about what book you're reading or about checking your email? If we're perfectly realistic, even the most readerly among us spend a lot of time not reading. There are just so many demands on our lives. But there's always hope; there's always a way to carve out time for reading. Toward the end of a busy semester I always get thinking about this. It's at the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one that I tend to throw myself back into reading. Maybe it's a good time for you to do it too. Because what I tell my students is true; if you're not reading, then the book is in the process of dying. The book dies with you; it's up to you to keep it alive. Will you keep it alive?