Feature

Editor's Letter

When I’m in a masochistic mood, I survey the 8:03 into the city to see how many of my fellow drones are passing the time by reading. Only about half the people have their noses in newspapers, magazines, and (rarely) books. The rest are either dozing or en

When I’m in a masochistic mood, I survey the 8:03 into the city to see how many of my fellow drones are passing the time by reading. Only about half the people have their noses in newspapers, magazines, and (rarely) books. The rest are either dozing or entertaining themselves with iPods, laptops loaded with TV shows and movies, and hand-held devices that their owners peck at frantically, like pigeons in a Skinner box. I find this not a little depressing, and not just because my only marketable skill is to string words together in some reasonably useful order. In five years, or 10, will anyone besides us ancients from the pre-Internet era read for pleasure? The trends are not encouraging. A new report by the National Endowment for the Arts found that 15- to 24-year-olds spend an average of just seven minutes a day on voluntary reading. Two-thirds of all college freshmen said they almost never read a book or an article outside their schoolwork.

So what? you might fairly ask. Young people are reading plenty on the Web, and texting, and expressing themselves on MySpace and Facebook and 10 million blogs. But on the Web, as National Journal media critic William Powers has pointed out, you don’t really read. You “forage,” jumping from link to link, entry to entry, message to message. It’s a world of fragmented attention and immediate gratification. Reading a book, or a well-constructed article, on the other hand, seduces you into putting everything aside; you have to focus. That practice develops concentration, and the capacity to follow—and express—complex thoughts and ideas. Not surprisingly, national tests have found that the ability to write and read complex materials is withering, even among graduate students. Read a whole book? R U serious? LOL. - William Falk

Recommended

Should the U.S. send troops to Somalia?
President Biden.
Picture of Catherine GarciaCatherine Garcia

Should the U.S. send troops to Somalia?

Finland and Sweden formally apply to join NATO
Sauli Niinisto, Magdalena Andersson
Nordic Track

Finland and Sweden formally apply to join NATO

Vatican slams Israel for attacking funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
Freedom of religion

Vatican slams Israel for attacking funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Ukraine says 264 'heroes' evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal steel works
Ukrainian troops in Azovstal steel plant
'Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive'

Ukraine says 264 'heroes' evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal steel works

Most Popular

Russia's failed Ukraine river crossing has pro-Russia war bloggers griping
Failed Russian river crossing
Losing faith

Russia's failed Ukraine river crossing has pro-Russia war bloggers griping

Why 'the Russian army just isn't very good'
Vladimir Putin.
Briefing

Why 'the Russian army just isn't very good'

Watch Wynonna Judd and Brandi Carlile sing 'The Rose' at Naomi Judd memorial
Wynonna Judd, Brandi Carlile
Some Say Love...

Watch Wynonna Judd and Brandi Carlile sing 'The Rose' at Naomi Judd memorial