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The end of reading

The end of reading

or more precisely, the end of patience for reading.

With the rise of the internet, and blogs, and Twitter, and Facebook, more people are reading more things.

Like Upworthy.

But there’s “reading” and there’s “reading.”

Short-form reading is up, long-form reading is down.


That’s my sense of things. There probably is a study out there about it. Would someone do me a favor and summarize the findings in 140 characters, so I don’t actually have to read it? You can send it to me at @leginsurrection.

Here are ruminations from Yaacov Lozowick, Re-learning to Read:

In recent months I’ve been teaching myself to read – or perhaps, re-teaching, since I used to know but forgot. By reading I don’t mean the technical ability to recognize letters and the sounds they represent, and thereby to construct conversations, ideas, or whatever nonsense people write. That ability I never lost. The one I did, however, was the ability to take a book and sit and read it, page after page, perhaps even hour after hour. That art I lost sometime during the past decade or two, as I put all my reading abilities into reading stuff on glass screens, and then reading shorter stuff on smaller glass screens, and then skimming over stuff on other glass screens.

Blogs, say. Or Tweets. At least I never started using Facebook.

So it hasn’t been easy, re-learning what I used to know. Back in the Old Times I used to read all the time, everywhere. I’d take two books onto an airplane, and six or eight of them to the first week of reserve duty. I would stand in lines in official ministries, reading. Buses? Reading. banks? Reading. I often read three or four books simultaneously. And then I lost the ability, and for a while didn’t even notice. Then I did notice but brushed it aside. Until eventually I realized that reading from glass screens – unless perhaps it be Kindle type screens which I never tried – was a form of making oneself dumb. True, just about everyone else was doing the same, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t getting dumber, even if it was a communal project.

So I tried to reverse the tide. It wasn’t easy. For a while it was a physical effort. But eventually the effort began paying dividends, as efforts often do. Recently it has even been getting easier, and of course, worthier.

(One thing you should be reading is the blog of the Israel State Archives, run by Yaacov Lozowick.)


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Doug Wright Old Grouchy | April 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Bah, humbug!

Henry Hawkins | April 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

I continue to read voraciously, but there’s a contributing problem and that is quality. It’s tough to find well written books. Ever read a politician’s book? Ugh. Even when I wholeheartedly support the writer as a politician.. ugh.

I love science fiction, but find myself rereading classics due to the dirth of solid new pubs. Science fiction has been welded to fantasy, and I hate fantasy books. Too much of science fiction is serialized (Book 4 of The Deltair-4 Series!), a move clearly predicated on marketing, not writing quality.

Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s new novella Joyland on kindle. King is a better author than given credit for, more than just a spook book writer. Alas, I’m struggling to get through Joyland because I’m past one-third in and very little has happened except a half dozen scattered pages devoted to voicing assorted liberal tropes that have nothing to do with furthering the plot (turns out multimillionaire King hates rich people).

‘Modern’ literature is anything but, and the same bias seen in the news media is found in the publishing houses, expressed in the same tired old ways. Media book reviews are about as useful as product reviews.

I know good stuff must be out there, but finding it is like trying to find a good movie on Netflix Instant where you spend more time looking than watching.

    I got out of the habit of reading the past year during a relocation and months spent on home repairs and renovation.

    But the past week I’ve gotten my mojo back. Today I say outside in beautiful 65 degree weather and read half of one of Michael Crichton’s first books, “A Case of Need.”

    I can’t wait to finish it.

    Recently read “The Horse who Chose Me,” “The Eighty-Dollar Champion,” Nelson DeMille’s “The Lion” and “The Lion’s Game,” John Grisham’s “The Litigator,” Ken Follet’s “Winter of the the World” and reread “1984” for the 5th or 6th time.

    There is just nothing like immersing oneself in a good novel. Personally, I can’t get over my addiction to real books. Kindle just doesn’t do it for me.

    Milwaukee in reply to Henry Hawkins. | April 21, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I have heard that Stephen King has observed the same dearth of good new novels and has a simple solution. There is one Dickens novel he hasn’t read and he keeps a copy in each of his homes. Then when he has 6 months to live he has a good book ready to read.

    The timing thing could be a little tricky.

Like Lozowick, I take a book with me whenever I am headed to stand in a line. It always turns downtime into up time.

    Paul in reply to Rick. | April 21, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    My Grandma drilled it into our heads… “boredom is a sign of a weak mind” and “always have a book handy, you’ll never be bored.”

    I agree with another post here about enjoying the feel of a physical book in my hand. I also like having shelf full of books to peruse and re-enjoy, and reference during debates, etc.

    But then again, sometimes I just LOVE being able to pull out my tablet and have an entire universe of books at my fingertips.

    It’s not either-or for me, I’ll enjoy both, thank you.

Reading has been actively under attack most of this past century since it limiting or guiding the ability is much more effective than censorship in limiting access to ‘dangerous ideas.’ When I wrote my book (Chapter 2 explains why reading has been under deliberate attack) I discovered that the 1908 Huey book advocating rejecting a fetish for print had been taken from a California university library, copied page by page for hundreds of pages, and reissued via Amazon to brainwash a new generation of teachers.

‘Close reading’ under the Common Core, a required practice, actually means using conceptual ‘lenses’ to try to imagine the passage from various role playing perspectives. Supposed to create outrage or empathy depending on the ‘lens’ used.

Not an accidental decline or a dispute over methods. It’s the Axemaker Mind and the legitimacy of the individual under attack and the influential idealogues admit it if you know where to look.

Talk about your non-readers…

“The common thread of humanity that connects us all – not just Christians and Jews, but Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs – is our shared commitment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. To remember, I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper. Whatever your faith, believer or nonbeliever, there’s no better time to rededicate ourselves to that universal mission…”
—Pres. ScamWOW on Easter

Now that just leaves me stunned. Do “nonbelievers” have a “faith”?

And, while I’m by no means a close scholar the the Koran, I don’t remember a passage about “love our neighbors as we love ourselves” without some qualifiers in it.

Help me here, people…

    JoAnne in reply to Ragspierre. | April 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Feeling your pain, Rags! The man just opens his mouth and “stuff” pours out. The least thoughtful president in my lifetime (almost 70 years).

    Vascaino in reply to Ragspierre. | April 21, 2014 at 11:13 am

    “Pres. ScamWOW”
    can spout this nonsense because now in the 21st Century, what do the non-readers know about Easter anymore?
    Likewise to have a discussion on Islam is Islamophobic, not PC, and keeps the proletariat ignorant. about the religion of peace and its relationship to Christainity and Judaism.
    But then again hypocrisy is rampant in these times.

    Talk about having the wool pulled over one’s eyes. Ooh, not nice that phrase alluding to a flock and therefore a shepherd (pastor?)
    Can such symbolism be tolerated?
    Can the non-believer who does not tolerate the 10 commandments and the cross in daily life, accept the message without getting queasy?

    Milwaukee in reply to Ragspierre. | April 21, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    “Loving your neighbors as yourself.” is uniquely Christian. The Catholic Church was first to give to charity to the poor regardless of where those poor came from. Others may have given to the poor, but only their poor.

I’ve always been an avid reader. I tend to get really, really cranky when I don’t get my book time in.

In the last 4 months I have read probably 80% of the entire Louis Lamoure library.

Once I am done with LL I am starting on Game of Thrones then starting Clancy.

I have read all of these works (except thrones) before but I want to read them again

    wyntre in reply to starride. | April 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    I tend to author-binge, too. One summer I read all 20 of Grisham’s books, followed by all of Follett including “The Key to Rebecca” and “The Eye of the Needle” and then DeMille for good measure.

    I also spent one summer reading all 96 volumes of Balzac’s “The Human Comedy.” (In English) Outstanding.

    Genres I love included thrillers, historical realism, legal thrillers and classics.

innocent bystander | April 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

For many years I read just for work. Then, I got myself a kindle and gave myself permission to read just for fun. Been having lots of fun.

Juba Doobai! | April 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm

The annoying thing about many of today’s writers is they don’t know how to take themselves and their politics out of their novels.Maybe writers never did. As a Conservative, I don’t buy writers who trash my politics or my religious beliefs.

There’s lots of good stuff out there, mostly old stuff. My iPhone is my personal library, and it’s rarely used to make a phone call.Text, yes; talk, no. It’s crammed full of books, and a day does not go by without something being read. Lots of public domain downloads, lots of stuff.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Juba Doobai!. | April 21, 2014 at 5:14 am

    Can you say GKChesterton?
    The thing is not that they can’t keep their politics out, but that they can’t avoid disrespecting conservatism and religion.

Ereaders, like the Kindle, Nook, or smartphones, are key for reading today. has stupendous free material, and has great collections. last night, from delphi, I downloaded all of Balzac and all of Maupassant for $2.51 per collection.

Henry Hawkins | April 20, 2014 at 9:17 pm

What I like about Kindle is the self-published stuff where you find the occasional gem. Highly entertaining is the ‘Bubba’ series by CL Bevill. Start with Bubba and the Dead Woman. Funny, well-written, excellent beach or airport reading. Not high literature, but for $0.99, c’mon.

Still, lot of trash to wade thru.

MouseTheLuckyDog | April 21, 2014 at 5:07 am

Funny, in terms of fiction, I don’t read much anymore. I do enjoy many works but I do so via audiobook. For some reason I like listening more.

For those looking for good reading material I would recommend The Remy Chandler Series by Thomas Sneigoski.

Remy, short for Remiel, is an angel who is suffering from semi-PTSD after the war in heaven. It’s not that he suffers from flashbacks or anything like that buthe just can’t stand to be in heaven thinking what it is like now versus before the war. Remy leaves heaven and lives as human being. In the twentieth century he becomes a detective. While he would just like to live life as almost human [1], it seems heaven won’t leave him alone. For example, in the first book the Angel of Death has vanished. It turns out that the Angel of Death was also given the scrolls ( of Revelations fame ) for safekeeping. Remy has to find him before the scroll can be opened unleashing the four horsemen.

Two warnings though. At times the language gets rough, and some of the Biblical scholarship is off. The scholorship though is not off as some other writers.

[1] Exceptions being things like being able to talk to his dog, who has roughly a two year old’s vocabulary. Being able to make himself invisible. He can take a much grater beating and heals faster.

Not under 140 characters. Oh, well.

Jacques Ellul, formerly a Professor of Law and Sociology and History of Institutions at the University of Bordeaux, characterizes the written word being subsumed by imagery as ‘humiliation of the word.’

IE: we have taught generations – via movies, magazines and television – to see with the eye, devoid of conscience, nutured by the junk food of fantasy, unable to think critically or even coherently.

And then we wonder why BHO got elected (IMHO).

Happy r.e.a.d.i.n.g.