They say that often man-made disasters are due to a lack of imagination on the part of those who are supposed to be doing the protecting. At least, that's what we like to tell ourselves - that it's not our fault, it's the fault of that winged fancy we like to call make-believe. But in the greatest sense, we are failures if we fail to use our imaginations to the utmost, especially if people or even innanimate objects who want to do us harm are more imaginative. That is why the new Associated Press/IPSOs poll that says one in four adults read no books whatsoever in the last year is so disturbing. Books allow us to imagine, and expand our faculties of conjecture. And in a world where more reading would be so advantageous, the people who are actually reading are reading religious texts (which are the biggest sellers overall). No wonder the world is going Topsy-turvy - the majority of new notions people are getting through the books they read are fundamental ones from books written over 2000 years ago. Everybody loves a good classic religious or no, but it's no wonder violence in the name of religious belief, and a scary social conservatism is taking shape, one reader at a time.
More apt than "you are what you eat," is the phrase "you are what you read." If you're reading nothing, that doesn't bode well. People have to eat to survive, and yet people foolishly believe that if they don't devour any books all year, their brains will be sustained and nourished in other ways. We are intellectually and imaginatively starving ourselves... we are a nation of bookarexics.
Another set of proofs "you are what you read:" topics of books, and the sheer amount read by certain identified groups of people is extremely telling and definitive. In the AP/IPSOs study, Democrats and liberals read slightly more books, and Republicans and conservatives slightly less. Funnily enough, Southerners, who could be predicted to read the most religious texts (they don't call it the bible belt for nothing), were also found to read more romance novels than in any other sections in the country. (Apparently they like to mix their reading business with pleasure). Those who said they rarely if ever attended religious services read almost two times the amount of books as those who attended masses, temple, or what-have-you, more frequently. The argument could be that those attending services had less time to read, but the better argument would be that those who don't attend tend to be slightly better educated, or perhaps because of the knowledge from what they've read, they choose not to attend. Hmm.
The interesting thing about this new disease/psychosis of bookarexia sweeping the nation is that it mainly affects middle aged men, not a group commonly identified as depriving themselves of much of anything. Women and older people were the most avid readers, and are often repulsed by any notions of such a disease, with women choosing the most diverse set of titles, from fiction to nonfiction and back again.
You can't force-feed a bookarexic. You need to carefully encourage, and show that you genuinely care about their welfare. As they helplessly plunder through their lives with this disease, we have to recognize that the entire world is quickly becoming intellectually malnourished. The US is a third-world country when it comes to reading, and those who have a healthy appetite for books need to help encourage that trait in our sad, intellectually balding brothers.
An article on the Associated Press/IPSOs poll can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20381678/