Struggling to Read

Struggling to be

Grant Faulkner

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Image credit: Creator: LA Johnson / Credit: NPR

When I was a teen, I remember telling my mother that I was lucky because no matter what happened to me in life, I’d always be happy as long as I had a book.

I loved movies as well, so it’s interesting I said books, not movies. Perhaps it was because movies could only be watched in a theater or on a TV then. Movies weren’t portable, as they are now, whereas a book could go anywhere, a deserted island or a prison.

But I think it was something else. I think I said books because I got a deeper satisfaction of the soul from reading.

I’ve been missing that deeper satisfaction. Somehow, without my knowing it, it withered away, like a neglected house plant.

I read less this year than any year in my adult life. That’s because I’m busy with several projects, including writing books, but it’s also because of something that I’ll call Internet head. iPhone head. Device head. My attention span is so fractured that I have a hard time literally sitting down with a good book and luxuriating in it like I used to.

When I’ve told this to others, I’ve found that almost everyone I know is going through the same thing. Many people have given up reading altogether — people who had always been readers, people who like hanging out in bookstores. Which makes me worried about the state of reading today.

Book sales have been strong these past few years, but I wonder if the books purchased have been read. If people like me aren’t reading — people who have literally formed their beings around books — then what chance does reading have? Perhaps the era of human reading — which began on a widespread level in just the last century — is reaching an end.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture,” said Ray Bradbury. “Just get people to stop reading them.”

I’m ringing the alarm bell: I think we’re destroying our culture because we’re destroying our ability for deep reflection.

We are not only what we read. We are how we read.

I recently had a realization, though, that counters that ominous prediction. I was in Mexico for a writing conference, and I had a day free, so I did what I liked to do best when I…

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Grant Faulkner

Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, co-founder of 100 Word Story, writer, tap dancer, alchemist, contortionist, numbskull, preacher.