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It’s Up to Us to Make Books Cool Again

A relative recently said, “Congratulations on your new novel. Too bad nobody reads books anymore.”

I recently overhead someone bragging that he never reads books. Yes, bragging. Another person I know got mad at his wife because he found boxes of books in the attic. His attitude was, “Books? You might as well have saved boxes of rocks!”

Is my lifelong dream to be a novelist akin to wanting to be a chimney sweep? Is our nation with its high level of literacy (a recent study ranks us the seventh highest in the world, behind the Nordic countries) actually becoming illiterate when it comes to reading books for pleasure and not merely reading Facebook posts?

I don’t think so. I see signs of hope that books are alive and well.

First of all, you’re reading this. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t like books.

While bricks-and-mortar bookstores have been dying off, independent stores are popping back up like blossoms in a charred forest.

And, of course, driving past James Patterson’s mansion in Palm Beach tells me that at least one person is still making big money from books. Thankfully, Mr. Patterson is also active in promoting literacy among children. In fact, he recently donated $3 million to the University of Florida to begin his James Patterson Literacy Challenge.

We book lovers need to act as reading ambassadors. I came across a Little Free Library in a neighbor’s front yard. What a delightful idea. If we all engaged in little grassroots efforts like this, we can help keep reading for pleasure alive. Volunteer to tutor kids or adults in reading. Donate books to libraries and schools. Buy kids and grandkids books as presents.

Try to pry your kids and friends away from their video games and streaming videos—at least for a little while. Unlike passive electronic entertainment, with books they have to conjure images in their h

eads from the words they read. They can go back and read a passage over and over, savoring the sound of the words and deciphering the layers of meaning. Fact is, reading makes you smarter and strengthens your reasoning and language skills.

Even just talking to friends and coworkers about the books you love is helpful. When a movie based upon a book comes out, I’ll be sure to let them know the book was better. The more we talk about books to readers and non-readers, the cooler books will seem.

Here in Florida, a direct hit from a hurricane can mean a week or more without electricity, cable and internet. It weakens your faith in our digital world. So I tell my proudly non-reading friends: Wait until foreign hackers take down our grid and streaming video becomes a distant memory. You’ll really wish you had books then.

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