Today’s Wall Street Journal reports on a New Yorker articles on the decline of reading in America. As WSJ says, “The reading of literature has declined so sharply that some sociologists believe it will one day become an arcane hobby. But the really bad news, says writer Caleb Crain, is that as literary reading erodes, so does open-mindedness. Replacing time spent with the printed word are television and other forms of streaming media, which engage people on a much more direct and emotional level than reading. While emotional responses can be useful — say, for
evaluating a political candidate’s personality — they also can foster intolerance for opposing viewpoints. Consider the difference, says Mr. Crain, between reading an anger-inducing article and watching a television program that serves up different viewpoints. The former can be amusing, but the latter can feel nearly unbearable — and it is all too easy to change the channel to something more comfortable.
Mr. Crain notes another curious aspect of reading: According to a National Endowment for the Arts study, readers are more likely to exercise, visit museums and engage in civic activities — all the more reason, he suggests, for not letting the habit slip quietly into the night.”