Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Restoring the Lost Love of Reading

Before reading this post, I’d like you to answer three questions, in the comments section if you would, but at least in your head.

  1. Is there a book that you have been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to reading?
  2. What book is it?
  3. What has kept you from reading it?

Some of us read so that we not feel alone. Some read for other reasons. But how many of us simply read because of the pleasure it affords?

According to a recently released study from the Pew Research Center, 26% of Americans did not read one single book in the 12 months preceding the study.

pew_chartMy mistrust of polls and statistics is well documented and this recent election cycle has not remedied that.

But even though that figure seems like it is probably right, how high would the percentage go if we excluded those who only read a book because it was assigned or otherwise required of them? That is, how many of us read a book simply for the pleasure of doing so?

When I was a kid, I’d plunder the local library. How many of us still do such a thing? If, as I expect, the answer is few, I want to know why.

Is it possible that we have educated the love of reading from among us? The stats say that the more education, the more likely it is that one has read a book. But it is possible that the books the educated continue to read are those assigned or demanded of their profession, not those chosen? My experience with students AND academics is that many have given up reading for fun. Years of forced reading has squashed the love of reading. It has all become so serious.

We who were once kids carting books home from the library to feed our imagination have been reduced to grownups who lug books around to fulfill our obligations. That part of our heart that resonated with wonder and adventure, if not as well human empathy, dies in that transformation.

Believing that embers of that wonder yet remain, I am issuing a challenge to all who will join me in a small act of rebellion against the stats. Read one book that you want to read in 2017. There is a caveat here: to qualify, the book must be one that you want to read for the mere pleasure of reading. Books that will help you professionally, self-help books, books directly related to your career, and books assigned for a class do not count. Be a kid again and find a book that you just want to read. Just because.

I know there are more substantive causes you could join, more significant acts of rebellion in which you might engage. But there might be more value in this one than you can imagine. So, do it. Do it if you even need to stop reading your favorite blog (this one, of course) to do so.

Do it. Do it to wreck the stats, sure.

But most importantly, do it for fun and the rekindling of wonder.


A Lot of Jesus


Buying Books


  1. 1. Yes
    2. Too many to list!
    3. Not sure why–lack of time after marriage, ubiquity of Netflix, getting out of the habit…

  2. Mary Greenwald

    Now that I am retired, I read for pleasure constantly. When I was teaching, there wasn’t time to just read for the joy of it;however, I did often enjoy the reading that was required. Time or lack of it, I believe, is one of the main culprits.

    • I get the time comment. But if we are too busy to do what we love, which has positive benefits, perhaps, as they say, we are too busy?

  3. Gail Brightbill

    Yes. Re-read “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Neshi Coates. Haven’t done it because of getting bogged down in the messiness of life. Reading for me is sheer pleasure like savoring an exquisitely prepared meal at an upscale restaurant.

    • Gail Brightbill

      Correction on spelling of the author’s name: Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    • Love your metaphor. Of course, some of what I chose to read is tough or underdone, and I can’t sent it back to the kitchen.

  4. Stephanie

    1. Yes.
    2. “How to Read a Book”
    3. A combo of time, energy, and distraction.

    • HOW TO READ A BOOK is far more interesting and accessible than it sounds. Reading and insomnia go well together. I think I’ve heard you say that you have ONE of those components. 😉

  5. Jeff MacFarlane

    1. Yes
    2. “Crime & Punishment”
    3. its Intimidating length.

    • So, C & P shows up twice here. Truth be told, it’s not that long. Can be tedious, but it will stick with you. And when the prostitute is sharing Jesus with the murderer… wow. It’s worth it. Do it!

  6. Kedric W.

    Q: Is there a book that you have been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to reading?

    A: A legion of books, for they are many.

    Q: What book is it?

    A: East of Eden; Crime & Punishment

    Q: What has kept you from reading it?

    A: East of Eden is still packed away in boxes. Also have many other books. I’ve started reading Crime & Punishment. It is part of my catch up reading from not doing so in the past. Recently finished Frankenstein.

  7. TG

    Skipped over the post to answer first…

    1. Is there a book that you have been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to reading? Yes

    What book is it? So many.

    What has kept you from reading it? Easily distracted and lack focus. Every time I sit down to read, I feel the pressure of all the other things left undone. Fall asleep as soon as I pick up a book….

    • Reading is one of those things which we relegate to the role of an ‘only if I have the time’ luxury. Yes, for some it is a tool of procrastination. But for many, it falls to the bottom of list of important things. It feels like ‘doing nothing’ and we should be ‘doing something.’ Something of the devaluing of rest at play here, methinks.

  8. chrisinnm

    1. Yes, of course.
    2. Like so many others, they are legion, however one that comes to mind is Home (opr Housekeeping) by Marilyn Robinson
    3. Hate getting library books that I have to keep re-checking because I am a slow reader. Waiting to find it free on paperback swap or come across a sale. I have a husband who is loathe to pay the going rate for new books.

    Now back to read the post…

    • HOME not as wonderful as GILEAD or LILA, but still worth reading. And no, never pay for new books. Rather, mine them from And find a used book store that will give you credit for used books. And finally, tell that husband of yours to loosen up!

  9. chrisinnm

    Now a comment post reading: I live surrounded by PhD scientists. I know few who do NOT read for pleasure, albeit some read for pleasure in their field or a related field. We have one of the highest per-capita PhD levels in the country as a county, and also one of the highest library user-per-capita statistics in the country (or at least a librarian told me so!) So maybe I throw a wrench in your theory…

    I try to read a couple of books a month on average– not bad for a slow reader like me. And I mix pure pleasure books with books I want to read for other reasons– to grow, to learn, to experience something I have heard about, etc. I promise to make my next book choice one for pure pleasure. That is the happiest of challenges!

    • I’m happy to have wrenches tossed. I’m not sure the library stats help. It’s possible that these PhDs are making their kids read. Does YOUR PhD read for fun? Nevertheless, your observation is a good one. It may not be that education destroys reading for fun, but Netflix might. And a loss of a sense that rest is good may be doing that.

  10. Adrianna Espino

    1. Yes
    2. The one you recommended recently: STRANGE GLORY – A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh
    3. I don’t want to buy it unless I can find it used at a good price. I plan to suggest it for Westminster Book Club meeting at Shores; the Club or Shores Association will buy some copies for members to pass around; or I will try to get it from Manatee County Library System.
    I love to read for pleasure but time to read is a big issue with me. I do enjoy most of the ones for the two book clubs I’m a member of. One of the things I like about book clubs is that I’m “forced” to read books I might otherwise not choose; then I often find I’ve enjoyed the book.

    • Time is an issue for you? I despair! Even in retirement?! Help!!

      As to books at a good price, always, always, always shop ABEBOOKS.COM.

      SG at Amazon is $11.42 for paperback copy. From ABEBOOKS I bought a used, very good condition hard cover first edition for under $10.

  11. Suzanne

    1. Yes
    2. All the Light We Cannot See
    3. Most of my reading is for work or personal growth. I enjoy reading for pleasure, but often feel there is something more important to do. I need to make time away from all the distractions of life a higher priority.

    • If I were to criticize the issue of priorities, I would be the kettle talking to the pot. I do find it interesting how we have devalued reading as a legitimate way to rest, where few that I know have a problem with turning on the TV for that! Let me know what you think of ALL THE LIGHT!

  12. Luke Rakestraw

    1.) Yes
    2.) Fences – August Wilson; & Silence – Shusaku Endo before the movies come out
    3.) A combination of seminary reading and distractedness. The more time I spend on computer/television/etc. the less focus I have for reading. Trying to work on this extra in 2017.

    • SILENCE is such a good and such a difficult book. It is challenging. And as for being distracted, yeah – seminary will do that to you.

  13. I’ll like to add a comment I made earlier but couldn’t post it, but now I don’t remember the comment, but I’ll try to post this anyway.

  14. Jenny McCarty

    This year I want to read two books : Cry the Belovd Country and also Wives and Daughters.
    I desire to read the first one because I have been half way through it for two years, and I think I’m ready. I quit exactly two years ago as the pain of the protagonists loss was so intense and real it was too much for my heart which was also grieving a son.
    I like Wives and Dayghters because I laugh at the idea that at one time it’s serial publication was the “Gilmore Girls” of the day. You’ve got to hold us accountable in a year!!

    • The wonder of a well written book is that it does capture us emotionally into the pain of the characters, which is then a special difficulty when that pain seems to shine a light on our own. So I get why one would stop reading. But I hope you are able to persevere with CRY. It is so rewarding.

  15. I’m so grateful that my PhD work in literature has not deadened my love of reading for pleasure. I definitely still read for pleasure and the list is always long. For 2017 it includes Silence (which I’m planning to read on a silent retreat in Feb), St. Augustine’s Confessions if I can find a good translation, and a handful of novels that are sitting on my “to read” shelf. I find that having a shelf like that helps me to read more, actually.

    My biggest obstacle, of course, is time and reading fatigue.

  16. johnscorner

    Is there a book that you have been meaning to read but haven’t gotten around to reading? Yes. Dozens. Hundreds.
    What book is it? Hardly matters. I wish I could read 200 pages a minutes . . . or even a thousand words a minute (AND comprehend what I am reading).
    What has kept you from reading it? Too many books, not enough time. I am CONSTANTLY reading and studying and ATTEMPTING to summarize/communicate the results of my reading and study. There’s just too little time. (And, no, it’s not because other forms of “entertainment” come first. I rarely consume much of anything–let alone time–seeking entertainment.)

    • Certainly there must be one or two at the top of your list!

      And if you could read that fast, do you not think you miss the opportunity of savoring content? That you would be consuming and not feasting?

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