The Rise of Literary Reading

I’ve recently read a couple of articles which have struck cords with me.  The first was from the Washington Post ( and the second was from a website called read it forward (  The Washington post article was basically talking about how people don’t read literature anymore and the second article was how literature saved the authors life.

We’ve become such an interesting society that everything has to be an all or nothing.  You have to either read literature or not.  You have to like a political candidate or you have to hate them.

This is a topic which could go on for a long time, but I’m going to narrow the focus to follow along the lines of literature.

In my opinion, society needs literature, and I don’t say that because I’m a writer and I think that it’s survival is necessary to my survival as a writer, or because of some nostalgic feeling I have.  Society needs literature because literature makes you think, and that is something that is seriously lacking in our culture at the moment.

We take things as people give them to us.  You read an article from the Washington Post and all of the sudden you’re worried about books being in decline; and yes, at a quick glance it does seem disturbing that there are virtually no literary authors on the top money lists.  HOWEVER, you must understand that the money lists which are written out by Forbes are entirely skewed.

The idea of a money-list is ridiculous, and also the idea of a books purchased list is equally absurd.  The reason is availability and accessibility.  You can say that literary reading is in decline since the 1800’s because no body reads those types of books anymore.  That’s wrong for two reasons.  1.  Dickens in his time was considered popular fiction…NOT literature, and 2.  How many times do you walk into an airport and find Proust on the shelf?

Literary reading is on the rise, not the decline.  Just look at Jonathan Franzen, who is holistically a literary author.  When he wrote “The Corrections” and famously snubbed Oprah Winfrey, he was one of the top grossing authors of the year.  The only reason he was however was because Oprah mentioned him and people ran out in droves to read it, that and the millions he won from literary awards.

The problem isn’t literature and its rise or fall, but in how the media perceives it.  If the Washington Post came out with an article saying how more people than ever were reading literature and three titles were amongst the top (for my own edification I’ll say these three “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen, “A Hologram for the King” by Dave Eggers, and “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell {runner up to “Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach}) then those three titles would be best sellers.

Once that happened then more people would be writing articles like Jonathan Russell Clark wrote about how literature and reading saved his life.  People would think more.  People would analyze situations better.  People wouldn’t be so trusting of one source, but they would look for the counter argument.

You heard it here first.  Literature is on the rise.  There is a reason Barnes and Noble is still around, years after E-readers saturated the market.  I challenge you to read a literature title.  One that makes you think.  One that makes you analyze it’s meaning.  One that makes you question your own reality.


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