Fiction on the rise

I don't know how I managed to miss it when it first appeared, but for fellow readers who also failed to see it at the time, I want to flag Ann Patchett's piece in the Jan. 17, 2009, Wall Street Journal on "The Triumph of the Reader."

Patchett (author of seven books including "Bel Canto") writes that, when the National Endowment for the Arts recently reported that fiction reading was on the rise, she was not surprised.

"I spend a lot of time speaking in schools and town halls and public libraries where people who read and read and read pack the auditoriums because they want to talk about literature," she wrote. "I have long refused to participate in the last rites of what is both my passion and my profession. "

As a newspaper book editor, I couldn't agree more. What astounds me is how many people manage to read as much as they do. We have readers writing in who read 2 or 3 books a week – and they are writing because they are hungry for more.

And why are people excited about reading? It's simple, Patchett argues. "If someone gave you a device with which you could see entire worlds just by holding it in front of your eyes, worlds of such beauty and complexity that they took your breath away, worlds of suffering and redemption, love and suspense and enlightenment, all of them there for the taking, wouldn't you want to show this device to everyone you knew?"

As a persuasive statement, it's hard to improve on that.

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