Imaginative Discussions: Book Renaissance?

Posted October 14, 2015 by Lyn Kaye in Imaginative Discussions, Lyn / 6 Comments

ImaginativeDiscussions

From a personal experience, I held the notion for quite a while that reading was an old-fashioned hobby, losing out to web comics, streaming TV shows and mobile gaming. There is quite a bit out there to distract the masses, vying for our attention. When people see me read, they usually give me a pitiful look and say, “Reading is so boring/slow/etc etc.”

When I was in grade school, there was a predominate message that reading was a life-long interest, and the facility and teachers supported Drop Everything and Read and took part in the state-wide book awards and whipped up the class into excitement over the book fairs. Even corporations were in on the deal;  programs and incentives to read over the summer always cropped up,  such as free pizza for a completed Read It form from Pizza Hut to promote literacy in young students.

This seemed more intimidating than supportive. I’ve often talked about my own literacy challenges growing up. I wasn’t the best reader in school, and I always ranked at the bottom for reading and writing skills for my grade level. Looking back, I should have been held back, since I lacked proper social skills for my level, which correlated to poor scholastic results due to my (then unknown) anxiety, social avoidance and overall fear of school and failure. I was certain, at a young age, that I was not “a reader”. I only started to pick up novels because my teacher in the 5th grade introduced me to interesting YA/MG books, and the Babysitters Club was a hot commodity. 

After I hit high school, my interest in reading waned once again, due to shame over my choice of reading, and the pressure to pick up more “intellectual” novels. When I left school at the turn of the century, I was hardly picking up a book at all. When I graduated public schooling, the internet was still in the early stages of production, and hobbyists were still slowly starting to develop their online communities.

In Summary: After a brief stint as a reading enthusiast as a new teen, I stopped reading because I didn’t know how to find books I liked.

According to my records that I have kept on a now defunct Livejournal page, I had read 14 books in 2008 and 13 books in 2009. I was just shy of ten years between my high school graduation and my sudden interest in novels. What pushed me back into reading was, yes, Twilight (that’s right, I was a Twihard for a few years). I was proud of my one book a month pace during this time. I thought I was just so awesome.

I first joined Goodreads in 2010, the good old days prior to the mass censorship that came with the Amazon buyout. I had only 2 or 3 wavering friends, who sporadically updated their profiles, due to disinterest or a heavy workload.  By this time, I was in my infancy of my Book Renaissance. I connected to other readers and bloggers, and slowly, I started to discover one of the most vital skills for reading for enjoyment: how to find books that I would enjoy.  This would kick off what would eventually lead me to blogging and reviewing as a hobbyist.

I was mistaken when I thought I was one of the few that was hitting a new Golden Age of Literacy. I still had the notion that reading was a specialized pastime for people. However, recently, I discovered that I am just one of the few that is currently experiencing a new relationship with reading.

This all started with this picture from an online source (I know, Cracked has some issues, but I love their info-graph contests), that states that reading is not dying off, but instead, finding a new life. I nodded and thought that maybe this was due to e-readers. I’m very vocal for my advocacy of e-readers, and I will fully admit that e-books and e-readers helped reintroduce me back into the world of fiction.

While e-books did see a surge at the turn of the 2010’s, some book stores report that now paperbacks are starting to edge out their electronic cousins. Paper is the new black and bookstores confirm this trend.  Even though print is the popular choice, the new format has brought the life back into reading.

Frankly, it is much easier to be a reader currently than it was before, and what is offered is higher quality than previous generations of books. There is plenty of research that states that the children of the 21st century are beating the pants off the older generation when it comes to reading for fun. The very resources that some authors and readers scoff at are actually increasing the popularity of the hobby. While some bemoan that the internet is throttling the life out of books, the exact opposite is true.  So while your uncle at the dinner table during the holidays complains that the world wide web is exposing kids to all kinds of evils, no one wants to acknowledge that the ‘net is exposing people to positive topics.

And while I give quite a bit of credit to the electronic and information age for boosting readers, there is another hero of these good times: the authors themselves. Diversity of characters and topics is changing the whole entire landscape. There are some great novels in the past, from my very own childhood, but literature that offered anything outside of suburban white privilege or European folklore was sparse. There were topics of broken families and social issue, but it was hard to find books that dug a bit deeper. I am in no way attacking older fiction. The Tillerman series was the first book I picked up that exposed me to mental illness and underage homelessness. The Face on the Milk Carton scared me because someone dared to talk about the sudden interest in missing and exploited children. But these books, to me, to a girl living on the fringes of a Southern conservative, and highly religious state, were a great discovery when I hardly had access to anything but mass produced cheap thrillers and stories of how girls should act and behave.

So what made you into the reader you are today? I know some of our readers are still teenagers. Do you believe that you will continue to be an reading advocate after public schooling? When you head into college? For the older readers, did better access help you? Or community programs to help adult readers? I am interested in your own reading history, if indeed you are experiencing your own reading renaissance.

Lyn Sig Plant

6 responses to “Imaginative Discussions: Book Renaissance?

  1. To be honest, what turned me into the reader that I am today is boredom. It was the summer after I graduated from high school and I became nanny to my nieces and nephews until I made a plan and while the kids were sleeping or playing, I was bored so I picked up one of the books laying around my sister’s house. I haven’t stopped reading books since.

    Not too long after that, I had my daughter and my going out days were behind me but I didn’t care because there were endless books to be read in my future and I was excited about that.

    I’m a huge supporter of reading and all things books so I will always endorse it but I think the reason more kids these are reading is because there’s more of a selection to read from. Whatever you want to read, someone has written that story and that wasn’t the case when I was younger. We had a smaller selection of books to choose from and while I’m jealous that kids these days have more books to read, I’m happy that the selection has grown so much.
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  2. Really fascinating post, and interesting to hear that Millenials (I am a Millenial, *just*) are out-reading their elders. I wonder if the same is true in the UK… I’ve always been a big reader, but I tailed off a bit inmy twenties and have only come back to it recently, partly driven by the need to have something to do while feeding the baby. And since then I’ve never been away. I get a lot of books from the library, or from charity shops, but I also get sucked into the Kindle store from time to time.

    It’s interesting how much of this reading boom is driven by YA. I don’t read a lot of YA, or haven’t in a while, but so many book blogs seem to be focused on YA (that and romance), and a lot of the books sound wonderful, and like you say diverse. I wonder if this trend will continue on into the adult book world as teenagers grow up. And some of them, of course, will become writers themselves.
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    • I believe it is the same trend in the UK – some of those articles are from the UK, so I bet that you guys across the pond are doing the same good work!

      YA did throw open the door for a renewed interest (I can contest to that myself!) and I am so happy to see the positive results from the Book Boomers!
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  3. So, so true! I definitely think the generation of today and those to come are way more into reading than before. And I think it’s because of a few things, and e-readers are one of them. Before I had an e-reader, I was only reading like one book every 3 months? When I got my Kindle, from 4 books a year, I read a hundred books. A HUNDRED BOOKS. That’s way more than 1000% increase from the usual! Books are now a lot more cheaper (thanks to constant sales) and a lot more accessible. And I think social media played a big part of it, too. Authors now are so much more approachable than before, now that you can tweet them, e-mail them, facebook them, and join their elite street teams. You can build hype alone on Twitter. The digital age, I believe, helped let people see that literature is great and beautiful and amazing, and that those who make them are these equally fantastic people that could simple be your next-door neighbor or your polka-loving buddy.
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    • In the past, reading was such a nerdy thing. But like most of today’s media and pop culture, nerd is in, so maybe there is a correlation between the nerd/geek take over and the current reading movement?

      From 4 to 100 is AMAZING, Faye! Like you, I certainly saw my own numbers soar after this trend. And I love talking and interacting with authors on Twitter. I feel like that has helped give a lot of feedback, and I certainly hope it helps authors feel inclined to write when they have the outpour of support and love on social media.
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