Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reading Crisis and Bibliotheraphy

As an avid reader I was alarmed to notice in The Daily Mail that one quarter of Britons admit to not having read a book in the last year. But what is more appalling is that many of them lie about reading books they haven’t -- just to appear more intelligent. How sad.
Ministers published the findings as they urged bosses to set up libraries in former workplace smoking rooms to transform employees’ reading habits. Launching the National Year of Reading campaign, they said research showed nearly half of adults had read at least five books in the previous 12 months. Yet a quarter had not read a single book during the same period, including almost half of males aged between 16 and 24, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

A separate survey had shown a third of Britons read “challenging literature” in order to seem well-read even though they could not follow what the book was about.

It also found that 40 per cent had lied about having read certain books “just so they could join in with the conversation”.

Around half of 4,000 adults who responded to the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council poll said reading classics makes you look more intelligent.
The full piece is here. And, interestingly enough, we reported on something similar about this time last year, right here.

Seasonal disorders notwithstanding, to help in the fight back, 2008 has been designated as the UK’s Year of Reading.

It is my opinion that there is a direct link between the decline of reading and the rise of anxiety, depression and mental illness in western societies. Blake Morrison of The Guardian agrees, as the lead-in to a recent article by Morrison explains:
The idea that literature can make us emotionally and physically stronger goes back to Plato. But now book groups are proving that Shakespeare can be as beneficial as self-help guides. Blake Morrison investigates the rise of bibliotherapy.
Then Morrison himself goes right to the heart of the matter:
Bibliotherapy, as it’s called, is a fast-growing profession. A recent survey suggests that “over half of English library authorities are operating some form of bibliotherapy intervention, based on the books-on-prescription model”. That’s to say, an increasing number of people are being referred by their GPs to the local library, where they’ll find shelves or “reading pharmacies” set aside for literature deemed relevant to their condition. Lapidus, an organisation established in 1996 “to promote the use of literary arts in personal development”, has played a key role in bringing together writers and health professionals; as has the current chair of the Poetry Society, the poet Fiona Sampson.

Bibliotherapy might be a brave new word but the idea that books can make us better has been around for a very long time. Matthew Arnold and FR Leavis temporarily hijacked it when they argued that great literature - “the best that has been thought and said in all the world” -- can make us morally better, by kindling “our own best self”. That idea disappeared with the Holocaust, when immensely civilised and well-read men brought up on Schiller and Goethe proved capable of the most barbarous acts. But the idea that books can make us emotionally, psychologically and even physically better goes back to the ancient world.
You can read Morrison’s piece here.

Personally speaking, I find reading a way to dispel the anxieties that riddle my world and form a way to escape from a sometimes dark reality that clouds our world from time to time.

Recently I found a novel entitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson really rocked my world. So if you want to escape the world around you for a few hours, but wish to have a story haunt your mind seek out this remarkable novel.


Post a Comment

<< Home