Can readers of beautiful books inspire a reading trend among non-readers?
Well… I’m not an idealist (anymore).
According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of American adults (26%) last year said they hadn’t read even part of a book.
That’s bad news, but no one is surprised.
My friend Janet, my cousin Megan, and I sit outside Starbucks on a warm windy day (so windy there are wind advisories). We’re discussing reading because we have a new project: a book-sharing project. We three, along with relatives in Mount Pleasant, Davenport, Marshalltown, Sioux Falls, and Galena, have communally purchased classics from the Folio Society. They’re very expensive–say, $50 to $100 a pop–but when everyone chips in, it’s not bad.
Why? We love the paper, the beautiful covers, and the illustrations. But we also noticed Folio Society-inspired action on a trip to Mount Pleasant last summer.
I left my copy of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic novel Uncle Silas (Folio Society) in the untidy Dickensian den of Sue’s duplex for an hour, and when I came back her daughter, Paula, just out of rehab, was reading it. ” Beautiful book!” she said. “Can I borrow it?” Sue stood behind her nodding furiously and making thumbs-up signs. Later she tried to pay me.
“No, give it back when she’s done!”
It was inconvenient, but I finished an e-book version. If Paula tried to read the e-book , she’d be Snapchatting in a minute. The truly f–ed up have one advantage in this world. The rest of us frantically try to help. It must do something for our Karma at least?
Here’s what has happened to those who have reproduced (Janet, Megan, and I did not). The adult children have failed, they are moving home, they’re divorced, they’re in and out of rehab, can’t hold a job, don’t seem to want to much, never read, read palms, and are on their phones all day. They went to community college or got Ph.D.s. They didn’t want to work in an office: that’s what they could do. It’s far easier to live with Mom. (And Dad is long gone.) Mom isn’t exactly rich. But even in small towns they can get anything they want…
“Very rewarding, being a mom,” said Sue in Mount Pleasant.
And so we’ve got the Folio Society thing going on.
Who could possibly not want to read this edition of Persuasion?
I have read Persuasion many times, but it enhances the reading of Persuasion.
Does the Snapchat generation read Persuasion?
Did Facebook, etc., mess them up too much to read Persuasion?
The women of my generation do like this book. We’re very enthusiastic. I suppose it’s too soon to say about the “target audience.” We leave the books around. Paula has read Pride and Prejudice and Turgenev’s First Love (her mother reports). Paula won’t obey the rules about not eating chocolate when she’s reading the book. Her mother has had a stern talk with her. Their lodger, the man who lives in the basement? Well, he’s read five of the FS books.
So not quite the target audience?
I don’t know how it’s working outside of Mount Pleasant. Well, except in Sioux Falls, where Janet’s aunt reports that her grandson’s trans-boyfriend is on the second volume of War and Peace.
As far as I’ve heard, our project hasn’t changed anyone’s life.
You never know.
Megan wants to buy the Folio Society edition of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple Short Stories next.
Because she thinks that everyone will enjoy that.