People are Not Reading (as many) Books; Not even Picking them up off the shelves – A Reflection

(I’ve been away on vacation. Sorry about the lack of posting here on my blog. Hopefully, certainly by next week, I will be back on a more complete blogging schedule).


News item:  The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper; University libraries around the world are seeing precipitous declines in the use of the books on their shelves. This is the title and subtitle of an article that appeared recently on The Atlantic site, written by Dan Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration at Northeastern University.

I am not surprised by this news.  But I am alarmed.

On my vacation, I read two full books, and portions of about three more.  This was my “escape” reading, and at the moment I am thoroughly enjoying the mysteries written by Anthony Horowitz, the creator of Foyle’s War (among other artistic endeavors of his).

But, during my work weeks/months, I read business books, and books on issues of social justice.  When I prepare a synopsis, I carefully read every word of the book selected. I read these books pretty slowly. I highlight hundreds of passages. And I work hard at understanding the message intended from the author, so that I can pass that lesson along to my listeners.

But, I am noticing plentiful signs that serious reading – serious book reading; serious deep-dive reading – is on the decline.  I see this partly in my own life.  I used to think that web sites were a distraction from my serious reading.  Web sites don’t hold a candle to Twitter, for me, and Facebook and other sites, for others.

deep-work-cal-newportBut I want to commend some deep-dive reading to all. In fact, even my escape reading seems to help me be a little more centered, and a little less crazy and worried. (It is an era with some craziness, and worry, isn’t it?).

Two books to start with are both by Cal Newport:  Deep Work (read it first), and then Digital Minimalism.

Here’s a quote from Digital Minimalism: 

When we confront our habits through this perspective, we will reach the same conclusion now that Thoreau did in his era: more often than not, the cumulative cost of the noncrucial things we clutter our lives with can far outweigh the small benefits each individual piece of clutter promises.

Here’s the challenge – for the next three months, read some books. Books, plural. Pick an escape book or two; and at least one serious book.  Lists are plentiful; here is a list of very good books I blogged about a while back: You should read these 30 books – Book Suggestions from Randy Mayeux of the First Friday Book Synopsis (ok – 30, + a few) 

But, declutter, focus, and read.  Read some books; fully read these books!  It might do you some good.


Digital MinimalismHere are my blog posts on both books I mentioned:  Deep Work and Digital Minimalism.

And, my synopses for both books are available at the Buy Synopses tab at the top of this page.  Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, and the audio recording of my presentation from the First Friday Book Synopsisin Dallas.   Click here to see our newest additions.  (My synopsis of Digital Minimalism is currently still available on this page).

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