Jason Gay: Stop Reading This Lousy Column and Read a Book Instead

From a Wall Street Journal column by Jason Gay headlined “Stop Reading This Lousy Column and Read a Book Instead”:

A bit of distressing news: Americans are reading fewer books. That’s the report from the gang at Gallup, who surveyed U.S. adults and learned that we’re all individually reading “roughly two or three fewer books per year” than we did in 2001-16….

Overall, the average number of books read per adult per year is down to 12.6, a drop from 15.2 in 2016, Gallup says. Every category of reader is reading less: men, women, college graduates, non-college graduates, old people and young people, as well as middle-aged morons with alleged humor columns in fine financial newspapers.

My friends, we’ve got work to do. It’s hard to look at what’s happening in the world around us and think that as a population we should be reading less.

I’ll be the first to say it: I need to step up. I’m not reading as many books as I should. I’m embarrassed, especially as someone who’s written a book and habitually begs people to read his chicken scratchings. I do read to my kids every night, but I’m not sure if reading to your kids counts. Somebody ask Gallup: Does it count as a book if it’s about 12 pages about an anxious dinosaur who really wants to open a patisserie?

Of course, it’s not as easy to read a book as it once was. In olden times, the only human pastimes were A) reading books and B) staring at the sky and wondering if a cloud looked like a cow or a duck. Now there are too many distractions. That’s why I’ve come up with a guide for how to read more in 2022.

• Get a book. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s an essential part of the process. Make sure it’s an actual book. That user’s manual in the junk drawer for the clock radio you threw out in 1993: not a book.

• Accept the fact that the book you will read will not be the book on your bedside table. Every person has a book next to their bed that they have not cracked since George Bush the elder was in office. This book is bookmarked on page 21 with a receipt from Borders.

• Get yourself a “reading chair.” Locate a chair in your home, or perhaps purchase a new chair, that will serve as your in-home reading refuge. It’s important that this chair be comfortable, but not too comfortable, because you want to be able to stay alert for reading. Find it? Great. Now go sit in the chair, open the book…and fall asleep immediately.

• Bury your phone. This is self-explanatory. Phones are the planet’s worst creative diversion; if we didn’t have them, we’d all have Grammys and Nobels by now. I know you can technically read a book on your phone, but nobody has ever actually done this. It’s a lie.

• Stop reading this. You could be riveted to Melville right now, and instead, you’re still staring at this dopey paragraph. More likely, you’re fast asleep in your reading chair. Please wake up. I have this dynamite book about an anxious dinosaur who really wants to open a patisserie.

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