A Case for ‘Required Reading’ As An Adult

Why don’t more adults read?

Can you recite, off the top of your head, the title of the last book you read? Can you estimate how many books you’ve read in the past month — in the past year?

In my opinion, there are too many people who never pick up (or, sigh, download) another book the moment they don’t have to, if they ever even did their required reading in school at all. I don’t believe there are people who “just aren’t readers.” If you don’t like to read, that’s fine, I’m not going to force you. But there is a subject matter, a format (novel? Audiobook? Comic?), a style of writing, an author, an optimal word length, for everyone. You can choose not to read — but if you do, there’s something for you. And you should do all you can to find it.

Why don’t more people read? I ask this question because I’m curious, not because I’m judging anyone who doesn’t. I just wonder if our lives are just way more cluttered with other stuff than they used to be — even though sitting in front of a screen and watching shows, for example, is nothing new.

I’m not going to sit here and say Netflix and YouTube have ruined reading forever, because I spend more hours per week than I’m proud to admit on both of those platforms, and I’m still on book 30 of 50 this year.

There are people who prefer videos and BuzzFeed articles and podcasts to reading, but there are also plenty of people who prefer to diversify their entertainment, or edutainment, depending on the types of books you tend to read. I love streaming TV, but I do get tired of sitting there staring at a screen — I like mixing things up and staring at a physical page full of words for awhile.

So it’s not that we need to stop streaming and replace it with reading. No — we just need to do a better job of balancing watching, listening, reading, playing, and doing.

Maybe we just don’t know what to read, where to look for recommendations, whether or not we’ll like something before we dive into it. I hope that doesn’t stop people from exploring the wondrous world of books! There are so many! Which is probably the issue!

You already know how to read, but there’s so much more to gain from doing more of it on your own time. It forces you to focus — something I’m guessing many adults struggle with today (I do!). You get to use your imagination, picture how things might look and sound, something you don’t get to do when you’re watching a movie. Reading can also make you feel good — it’s a healthy kind of distraction, stress reliever, and when all else fails, go-to BFF.

If you do want to start reading more — even if only to inspire yourself to write more — or you want to encourage someone you know to do the same, start with the books from high school English class. They’re better than you think. In fact, reading them now, having already been exposed to them once before, makes for an even better reading experience.

Everything you had to read for a grade in school, you should read again at some point. I never finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird my freshman year of high school, but I have since read it cover to cover at least five times. A book you read (or were supposed to read) for a grade is much more valuable if you read it at least once for the assignment, and at least a second time on your own.

I’m more aware of my surroundings, I’m exposed to different cultures and religions, I can explore and try to understand ways of thinking that are different than mine — all because I read. If the social internet has taught us anything, it’s that more people need harsh, relatable exposure to all of these things and more. Books can do that. Any kind of story, whether you’re physically holding a book in your hand or not, can.

I think people should read more of what they want to read, because they want to read. I mean, 50 Shades isn’t necessarily what I’d choose, but maybe those kinds of things could be someone’s gateway drug to more … in-depth and insightful literature. You never know until you try. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Read more. Talk about books more. It just makes us all better people, and maybe happier, too.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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My Favorite Sentences from Books I Read This Year (2016)

This is why we read.

Though I’m not going to meet my reading goal this year (siiiiigh), I did keep a running list of any quotes that made me stop and reread them a second time. I did this last year, and really wanted to make this an annual thing. So here’s a project I’ve basically been working on since January. Enjoy!

1. Shame


“Shame doesn’t listen to logic.” – Burn, p. 115

2. Water


“The water lapped softly across his chest, seeming almost remorseful … as if asking forgiveness for being the man’s ultimate killer … as if trying to cleanse the scalded wound that bore its name.” – Angels & Demons, p. 527

3. Stories


“People take what they need from the stories they hear.” – Shadow Spinner, p. 125

4. Phantom


“Perhaps her mind … would be betrayed and mocked by a phantom self as the amputee is by a phantom limb.” – The Crying of Lot 49, p. 133

5. Boba Fett


“Nobody knows what Fett feels or doesn’t feel.” – Bloodlines, p. 341

6. Loneliness


“The suburbs are one of the loneliest places on earth.” – He’s Gone, p. 16

7. Spinning


“It is the peculiar nature of the world to go on spinning no matter what sort of heartbreak is happening.” – The Secret Life of Bees, p. 279

8. Hope


“You get tired after awhile of just hanging around hoping somebody notices you’re there.” – Down Sand Mountain, p. 170

These are only from a handful of the books I devoured this year. Feel free to check out my entire 2016 reading list on Goodreads (minus the books I’m going to read next week while on vacation – WOO WOO!).

What were your top reads this year? Any quotes that really stood out to you? Share them below. :)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

[DISCUSSION] What Kind of Content Inspires You to Write?


I love reading fiction. I love diving into stories other people have crafted from nothing, except a single idea. When you spend so much time writing your own stories, it’s nice to be able to sit down on the other side and be the one to read something new.

Fiction doesn’t affect me the same way other kinds of reading material does, though. Yes, fiction is interesting and entertaining and often leaves me feeling fulfilled and satisfied with my life. But when I’m looking for inspiration, whether I need it to keep myself moving forward or I need it to influence me to sit down and write something, I don’t pick up a novel.

Actually, I love reading memoirs. Not that I’ve read too many; there are a lot I want to add to my to-read list. A lot of people think memoirs are really boring, because obviously, while they’re still stories, they’re not fictional, so they’re not always super dramatic.

Yet that’s why I love them so much. These are stories about people who have somehow made their mark in the world doing what they’re good at. And some of these people didn’t have their success handed to them: they had to work for it, to earn it. They struggled to get where they are, just like we struggle. They overcame obstacles just like we hope to. They’re real people who accomplished real things because they believed they could, and fought for it.

That’s what inspires me: real stories of started-at-the-bottom success. Don’t get me wrong: I still love reading fiction. I’m on the second book in Julianna Baggott’s Pure trilogy right now, but still pick up Barbara Walters’’ memoir and read a chapter every few weeks when I’m in a slump and need to remind myself there’s still room to grow and do good things for the world.

We don’t have to stop reading fiction, or whichever genre we love picking up when we just need to pass the time. But it’s beneficial to know what we should turn to when we’re feeling lost or unmotivated, in need of something to ignite that brain rush we’ve been missing so much lately, don’t you think?

Sunday again? Wonderful. Let’s discuss (and I know I haven’t responded to your comments from last week, I haven’t forgotten, I promise).

What do you reach for when you need inspiration?
Why does that content in particular inspire you?
Do you turn around and write in the same genre, or are there a lot of differences between what you read and what you write?

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.