To read or not to read | Beaufort County Now

Do people still read books? It depends on whom you ask. A Wall Street Journal Article posed the question differently: "Does the Book Have a Future?" English teacher, The Lost Art of Reading, literary fiction
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To read or not to read

    Kathy Manos Penn is a native of the “Big Apple,” who settled in the “Peach City” – Atlanta. A former English teacher now happily retired from a corporate career in communications, she writes a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier and the Highlands Newspaper. Read her blogs and columns and purchase her books, “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday” and “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on her website or Amazon.

Kathy Manos Penn in Montana for Christmas
    Do people still read books? It depends on whom you ask. A Wall Street Journal Article posed the question differently: "Does the Book Have a Future?" I discovered that we've been bemoaning the death of reading for at least a century. The author of the article regularly reviews books for the WSJ and begins by referencing an essay from 1902, "The Lost Art of Reading," in which, you guessed it, the essayist expresses concern that people don't read as they once did.

    In surfing the internet, an activity often blamed for the supposed death of reading, I discovered that 74% of adults have read at least one book in the last twelve months. Book is defined as "book in any form."

    Those who worry about our reading habits seem more concerned that the internet has lessened our "capacity to focus on lengthy works of literature." As a former English teacher, I'm happy if folks read books, period. I read literary fiction, to be sure, but I'm addicted to mysteries and have spent many more of my available reading hours on books by John Sandford, Robert B. Parker, Michael Connelly and the like than those by Iain Pears, Elizabeth Kostova, and Ian McEwan.

    Can you recall the days when we worried that children watched too much TV instead of going out to play? Or perhaps instead of reading. Today, we worry we spend too much time in front of our phones, tablets, computers or TVs. What will the worry be in the future?

    What I don't know is how many folks are avid readers, as I describe myself. I read at least two books a week as opposed to one a year. I also read excerpts from the WSJ every day and daily news alerts that somehow show up on my tablet. Don't ask me how.

    How did I become an avid reader? How did I become a person who wants to shoot herself if she's sitting in a doctor's office without a book? Blame it on my parents. My mother read to me when I was a child. She took me to the library even though we lived in NYC and had to ride the bus to get there. Santa brought me books. If my father didn't have a book to read, he'd pull a volume of the encyclopedia from our bookcase. They taught me well, and yet they worried about my being a bookworm.

    What are you missing if you don't read books? Is it detrimental to spend more time reading newspapers and magazines than reading books? Either habit can build vocabulary. Either habit can expose you to new ideas or expand your horizons. Is reading "The Hobbit" better for you than reading a newspaper? One is fantasy, and some would argue the other sometimes borders on it. One may distract you from the grind of daily life, and the other may depress you to no end.

    Given the option to read or not to read, what would you choose? If the answer is to read, what would you read? Books, newspapers, magazines? Fiction or nonfiction? I will always choose to read and to read books. "So many books, so little time." That's me.

    Find Kathy's new book "Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch" and her collection of columns, "The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday," on Amazon and her website


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