The Right Coast

July 10, 2004
Reading crisis
By Tom Smith

Americans are reading a lot less, apparently. That's bad. I agree with Solomon, that reading is really necessary to mental health, at least if you're not a hunter gatherer with lots of other mental challenges.

I read a lot. My reading is quite disorganized, but I read several hours every day. I make my kids read an hour every day over the summer. At first they objected. But I made it clear that if they don't do their reading, no video games, no TV, no nothing. (And I don't allow them to watch TV anyway, except perhaps an hour on weekend mornings, even during the summer. We do watch a lot of movies, however, at the theater or on TV. You can control the content better, fast forward through the raunchy bits or just stop watching if you disapprove.) Once they understand they must read, they do, and they seem to enjoy it. They get interested in the book, and finish on their own. Even little William is reading. We went to the book store yesterday to get more books, especially for William. He was hard to please. He wanted fantasy, like Lord of the Rings. "But no mice," he told the book store lady. "I hate mice." So we got a book involving owls, who eat mice. I have found the sales clerks at Barnes and Noble have a rich fund of knowledge on kids' books.

I disagree with Solomon that reading on the internet does not count as reading. I don't find it as relaxing as reading a book, but I think that's because it's more of a strain looking at a screen. Most of what I read on the internet are newspaper or magazine articles. I use blogs mainly for the links, or read short posts. I'm not a huge fan of long essay posts, except my own, of course.

Speaking of books, I read part of Solomon's book, The Noonday Devil, about depression. Its evocation of depression was so convincing that it was really depressing, so I stopped reading the book. There's probably a really good book about prostate cancer out there too somewhere.