Don't Drink, Don't
Smoke, What Do You Do?
by Mad Dog
in four adults in this country didnít get around to reading a book at
all last year. No novel, no biography, no Harlequin romance, not even a
copy of How to Increase Your Vocabulary Without Reading This Book.
||Youíd think that with
the long lines of people waiting to buy the new Harry Potter book the
moment it was available we live in a country of rabid readers. Yeah,
right. If we do itís only because people are foaming at the mouth at
the thought of having to read a book. According to a recent Associated
Press-Ipsos poll, the average adult read only four books last year. For
those of you who are too busy flipping through The Tipping Point wondering
when it gets to the details about how you push a sleeping cow over on
its side to think about this, it means the average adult reads about 822
words of a book per day, which is less than one word per waking minute
or about 5% of the time the average person spends watching TV. It makes
you proud that you know what average means, doesnít it?
Keep in mind that those are the avid
readers. It turns out that one in four adults in this country didnít
get around to reading a book at all last year. No novel, no biography,
no Harlequin romance, not even a copy of How to Increase Your
Vocabulary Without Reading This Book. Why not? One man quoted in the
article that accompanied the poll results said itís because he gets
sleepy when he reads. Besides, he went on to say, heíd rather spend
his time hanging out in his backyard pool. Uh, excuse me, didnít
anyone tell him about beach reading? You know, where you relax in the
sun and read at the same time. Maybe if we called it poolside
multitasking it would help. Keep in mind that no one expects you to zip
through the collected works of Thomas Pynchon while sipping mojitos on
your inflatable raft, theyíre actually much better suited to curling
up in front of a roaring fire with a hot toddy in hand so you can throw
them in and read yet another David Sedaris collection. Heck, if everyone
felt this way about reading by the pool Danielle Steele would never sell
another book. On second thought, maybe there is a plus to not reading at
Newspaper readership is steadily declining. Publishers are
scrambling to figure out how best to lure people back, the result
usually being that they eliminate as many boring words from the front
page as possible and replace them with splashy color photos of pandas.
If people arenít reading, then what are they doing with their
time? Most experts point to TV, movies, and the Internet as taking up
more of our valuable leisure time. At least the experts who arenít too
busy watching YouTube videos of a bulldog lip syncing Who Let The
Dogs Out while riding on a skateboard to answer their email. But
itís not like adults arenít reading at all. We read magazines, Crate
and Barrel catalogs, and web sites we accidentally stumble on that
arenít filled with photographs. What we donít read are warning
labels, instruction manuals, ingredient labels on non-dairy creamer,
nutritional labels on anything that tastes really good, and books. Oh
yeah, and newspapers.
Newspaper readership is steadily
declining. Publishers are scrambling to figure out how best to lure
people back, the result usually being that they eliminate as many boring
words from the front page as possible and replace them with splashy
color photos of pandas. If people continue to stop reading newspapers
theyíre going to all go the way of the Weekly World News.
Thatís right. After 28 years the supermarket tabloid that never let a
fact get in the way of a good story has stopped publishing a print
edition. That means from now on youíre going to have to flip through
something highbrow in the checkout line while waiting for the woman in
front of you to convince the checker that the ten-cent clove of garlic
is supposed to be half-off this week. You know, something like The
Star, Us, or The Astrological Guide to Diet, Exercise and
Word Jumbles. This also means that if you want to read about
the alien who introduced Elvis to Hillary in the hope that sheíll make
him her vice presidential running mate youíll have to check it out
online. Donít worry, there arenít too many words there.
Maybe if there were more
books about what people really care about theyíd read more. Books like
Chicken Soup for The TiVo.
I could write a book about why itís important to read, but of course
the people who need it most would never open it. They might buy it, put
it prominently on the coffee table, even use it as a doorstop, but crack
it open and read it? No thanks. The only way theyíd get the
information is if it were turned into a movie, video game, or theme park
ride. Maybe if there were more books about what people really care about
theyíd read more. Books like Chicken Soup for The TiVo, How
to Teach Your Dog to Fetch the Cheetos, and an inspirational book
about how Paris Hilton, Britney, and Lindsay Lohan have worked to clean
up their lives called Three-Hab. It would definitely be a best
seller, especially if it was mostly photos with only a few icky words
thrown in because, well, face it, paparazzi wonít let their photos be
published without their name appearing underneath it. In the meantime we
can just sit back and hope J.K. Rowling changes her mind and writes
another book, Harry Potter and the Lazy Audience. Personally,
Iíll wait for the movie to come out.
©2007 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them if you can.