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People reading much less

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” – (2 Timothy 4:13)

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh….” – (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

A recent article from Harvard Business Review made the point that “even as global literacy rates are high (84 per cent), people are reading less and less deeply”. I’ve never gotten the fascination with literacy rates because one can be literate and still not read widely or deeply.

I also suspect that some of our fascination with literacy rates might need to be tempered depending on how we define literacy. Does being literate mean that one can read and comprehend “the cat sat on the mat”, or does it mean that we can successfully wrestle with St. Augustine’s The City of God?

Whatever the definition, the fact remains that people seem to be reading less. According to the article, “business people seem to be reading less — particularly material unrelated to business”, a trend I suspect applies to almost every other area or discipline.

Who needs to read widely or deeply when Google can auto-complete our searches and give us the “answer” in a few clicks? In this Twitterati age where videos go viral, we have to literally fight for the time to read. I think the example of St. Paul is as relevant now as it ever was for both believers and non-believers. “He is inspired, and yet he wants books!”, writes Charles Spurgeon, “He has been preaching at least for 30 years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! … He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!” Today we might add: “He has endless entertainment options, a Facebook account, high speed Internet access, and yet he wants books!”

For there are two sure ways to remain ignorant: (1) Don’t read and (2) Do nothing but read.

— Adrian Sobers

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