Reading is very important, but the practice of reading is changing. This insightful piece by Gracy Olmstead at The American Conservative doesn’t say much about why, but she does make a very important observation about why reading matters.
“So why is reading different? Perhaps because, for many of us, it’s more than entertainment: it’s part of a larger search for truth, goodness, and beauty. It’s a way we delve deeper into our souls, and the souls of others. It often leaves us shaken and transformed. As Nabokov points out, the longer we spend immersed in a particular work, the more we begin to know and love it—and the more it begins to change us. Reading leaves a more indelible mark on the human mind than most other forms of entertainment.”
Olmstead is reflecting on two recent articles–one at the New York Review of Books; the other in the New Yorker. She focuses on two related readers’ dilemmas: how many books to read, and how to read them; and which books to buy, and from whom. I’m most intrigued by the first, being an educator who helps plan humanities classes. Buried in the middle of her piece, though, is this meditation on what reading is, and how it differs from other diversions/entertainments. It’s powerful reminder that we dare not let reading go.