Amidst all the public voices and rhetoric swirling around these days is a healthy focus on the need to make reading more a part of every life. From celebrities sponsoring reading campaigns to Amazon providing pre-loaded Kindles to schools in Africa through their Worldreader program, it is a good thing for sure. Illiteracy is not good for any society.
However, I asked a question in the title of this blog that is probably going to get me in hot water. After all, my job as a literary agent is to try to get more authors and books published.
Yes, it is possible to read too much.
I can see the headline now…”Literary agent urges people to read less. Kicked out of publishing industry”.
As long as I am in the deep-end of the pool, add this: Reading without discernment is worse than not reading at all.
There is nothing magical or wonderful about the simple act of reading, that is, reading anything for the sake of reading. This is in direct conflict with many literacy campaigners.
A couple years ago I attended a large international publishing conference in New York where it was announced that research confirmed that children today are reading more than ever, attributed to the growth of online content, smart phones, Twitter feeds and Facebook posts.
Everyone clapped and cheered at the news. “Hurray, children are reading more!”
Seriously? Reading anything is better than not reading?
Guess what, it is possible to spend time reading things that are downright evil and turn your mind and soul to mush.
Because I pay a lot of attention to things in and around the publishing world, I’ve heard things like this:
- At a publishing conference a couple years ago, I sat on a panel where a person from a large general market publisher explained how the “erotica” category has great long-term potential for them.
- The best-selling book Fifty Shades of Grey, described as “mommy porn” is extremely popular among teenagers.
- The mere suggestion that some books are not good for people to read is immediately flagged as censorship, the unpardonable sin in the general market publishing industry.
- A recent article in a prominent online publishing news service blamed Christian fundamentalism on its practitioners not being well-read. If that is the case, then it is logical the reverse is true, that a pagan hell-bound world- view is a result of a lot of reading. (I’m joking)
- There is a marketing campaign aimed at mega-readers to read 100 books per year. Some read 150 per year. There are some types of literature whose sales are maintained by a relatively small group of people who read all the time. (I assume to the exclusion of less-noble pursuits like friends, family, community and church!)
Mega-reading is not a godless obsession reserved for the unchurched among us.
I know someone who reads through the Bible several times a year, but can’t find the time to serve the church or other people.
I know a person who reads every Christian book they can and is about as messed up spiritually as you can get. If a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways, then being a quadruple-minded person is a walking freak-show.
Like so many other things we can do, reading can be used as an escape from reality. So again, reading for the sake of reading is not the answer.
It is not how much you read, it is what you read that is important. The same can be said about television, movies and any other media. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of them, but when they are consumed without discernment, they can be destructive. The best solution is not to avoid, but to use wise discernment in their use.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8 we read, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)
The Christian artist (includes authors) and the church have always been good at redeeming the things of this world. Whatever is intended for evil can be turned for good.
Every Christian reader can and should engage in recommending good books that honor God to friends and family.
Be an active participant in this worthwhile campaign.