Who Reads?

Anticipating the release of the iPad, people in the book publishing business have been abuzz. The talk moves from the prediction that books are on the way out to the idea that mid-list writers will be squeezed from existence.

What’s left? A handful of blockbusters and a growing number of unfiltered offerings from all kinds of home-grown sources providing a handful of readers what they want to read.

Where has the audience gone? Who reads any more?

I suggest, lots of people read and more want to. Look at the Harry Potter phenomenon. Loads of “non-readers” read all seven books, the final three each pushing past seven hundred pages.

I think of my friend’s husband who struggled with reading all through school and took jobs that required little reading. But he was a Christian, and when he married, he understood that he needed to take the spiritual leadership in his home. Consequently, he read the Bible. Sometimes he read publicly, always he read on his own.

He even joined a group called the Gideons, known most for placing Bibles in hotels, but in reality giving Bibles at any number of other venues as well. This man, you see, valued the Bible, so he valued reading.

What that teaches me is that people will read if they find a compelling reason to read. The Harry Potter-ites wanted to read because they got caught up in a good story, much to their surprise and to the surprise of most of the adults in their lives. My friend’s husband got caught up too—in the desire to know and obey God.

So we Christians who write fiction, can we write in such a way that non-readers will want to read without losing those who already love books and stories?

I have to think so. The Bible, after all, engaged my friend’s husband, and it has engaged countless scholars down through the ages.

C. S. Lewis, too, wrote so that little children groan when the end of a chapter comes in one of the Narnia books, but adults quote from those same stories as if they have the weight of Scripture.

Who reads? People who want to. With movies and TV so accessible, no one has to turn to books for stories. But many still do. Books give what the visual media cannot—the opportunity for the reader to imagine, to sink fully and intimately into a world and get to know the people who live there Or else to learn what they cannot learn anywhere else.

Writers just need to give readers a reason to turn to page one, then keep going.

Published in: on April 8, 2010 at 11:01 am  Comments (2)  
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