I went to a Bible Society showcase morning tea the other day. The speaker dropped the statistic that over 40% of Australians say that they will most likely never read another book for pleasure once they have finished their education.
It shocks and saddens me. Surely that statistic can’t be right. Australians are supposed to be some of the biggest readers per capita in the world, but I suspect that this doesn’t change the facts.
I guess I am pretty lucky. I read from a young age & had a love of reading patterned to me. I remember trawling through mum’s home-library & visiting my dad in the country & seeing him sit up at night burning through Robert Ludlum style books.
I even remember the very moment that a casual interest in books moved to a passion. It was in 5th grade & the school librarian read out to us the beginning of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” I decided to read it for myself, and though the first page and a half was very different to the rest of the book (I was expecting something along the lines of “More Adventures of the Muddle Headed Wombat,” the longest book I had read up to that point in time) I was hooked. Since then, my affair with good books has continued.
Viscount Herbert Samuel said “Libraries are thought in cold storage.” I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that, on my shelf, is the collected thought, dreams, ideas, blood, sweat and tears of hundreds of men & women. Thousands, possibly millions of hours of deliberation, poured out onto the pages. Even if the subject doesn’t interest you, the insight into the author can be fascinating. You can ignore the story & instead be lost in postulations on what kind of character or mind produces such ideas like this?, what headspace delivers such material? What do these characters say about this persons perception of reality & what does my reaction say in return?
Once you have a taste for literature, the bonds that time have on you are loosened. Anyone can now feel free to explore Paris in the enlightenment, reformation Germany, or the dark ages of Italy. Visit almost anywhere. Even better, visit almost anywhen!
Heck, why even limit ourselves to the terrestrial. The world is our oyster, but there is a whole ocean waiting to be explored beyond our little mollusk….
Middle Earth, the Disc Worlds, The Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy. It’s all there before us.
All this lies at the feet of any man, woman, child. All they need is some basic literacy and a library card…
40% of Australians, never picking up another book….
I’m sure people still find a thousand other ways to inform themselves. They say that by the age of about 8, the average kid has received as much information as their grandparents did in a whole lifetime. But that doesn’t change the facts. TV, the internet, mobile phones. None of these things ignites a fire in the heart like a good book.
It’s a great challenge for me to think about how I am feeding myself while i work here on the coast. Too quickly people say that they don’t have the time to read for pleasure any more. I’m convinced that the trick to longevity in ministry, and happiness in most walks of life, includes, in part, a paperback, 15 spare minutes a day (or longer on your day off) and the willingness to transport yourself into another mans life, or maybe even another world.
After all, as Twain once said “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t.”
What are you reading at the moment?
On the menu at the moment:
1: The contemplative pastor- Eugene Peterson: I started it, loved the first 100 pages, then kind of stalled. I should finish it. Maybe if I start blogging about my books, this will help me finish things like this.
2: Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church- Don Carson: Another book that I have started & need to work through. Good help in understanding what I am working with & a counterbalance to some of my online reading on Emergents.
Gustavus Adolphus: A Hero of the Reformation- C.A. LaCroix: Adolphus was a Swedish King, and a defender of the protestant faith. I’m enjoying the chance to read a little about an “unsung hero.”
Books I just finished:
1: What is the What- Dave Eggers: An awesome Biographical look into the life of Achak Deng. Born in Sudan, growing up in refugee camps and trying to eke out a life in the USA.
2: The Voyages of Sinbad- Unknown Author: An interesting book to read. Translated from Arabic. It’s interesting to see certain people held up as heroes who display characteristics that might make us uncomfortable in the western world.