“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
That’s Academy Award winner Bong Joon-ho, quoted from a Golden Globes acceptance speech all the way back in January 2020. He was talking about subtitles, which, despite being completely necessary and helpful and beyond useful, are apparently hated by some people.
Almost immediately afterward, Bong pulled in a ridiculous four Oscars with Parasite — a fantastically made, multilayered dark comedy that delves deep into the underbelly of class divides. Parasite was an extremely deserving winner. You should absolutely watch this movie.
Alright, it’s time to talk text. Way back before people assumed that you could compress meaningful explanations into Tweet-sized blurbs, people read these super long tweets called “books,” and, uh … oh, you know those? The truth is, judging by the numbers, plenty of people still love cozying up to a piece of fiction, non-fiction, paperback, hardback, whatever, and having some peace of mind. It’s estimated that book sales will rise to $129 billion in the U.S. in 2023 alone (via Statista). Publishers’ Weekly reports that unit sales rose from 757.9 million to 825.7 million from 2020 to 2021. That’s individual books, mind you, an insane figure considering all the bugbear “death of publishing” rumors of yesteryear.
Globally, literacy is at an historical high. Back in 1800, only 12% of the global population could read, as Our World In Data shows. As of 2016, that number was 86.25%. Some countries like Finland, Ukraine, and Czechia for all intents and purposes have 100% literacy rates, per World Population Review. This doesn’t mean that people in those countries or elsewhere are actually reading every day, but judging by the aforementioned publishing figures, it seems like folks still love books.
So how many books do you have in your personal library? If you have to pause and count them, then congratulations. But no matter how many you’ve got, you definitely have less than the Harvard University Library, which has a jaw-dropping 21.8 million titles (via Guinness World Records).
By Yenny Sanchez, CNN, Updated 8:37 AM ET, Sun June 19, 2022
(CNN) New Yorkers of all ages can now treat their shelves to a new book.
The New York Public Library (NYPL) has announced that it will give away 500,000 books to city residents to keep as part of its “Summer at the Library Program.”
Its goal is to help kids, teens and adults build their home libraries, as well as keep youth productive through the summer break.
The books are available at any of the library’s 92 locations in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. Some locations will even offer Spanish, Chinese, and large print titles.
“New York City students and families have been through so much over the last two years. It’s critical that, during this period of recovery and renewal, our ecosystem of learning do all it can to support and engage them,” Brian Bannon, NYPL’s Merryl and James Tisch director of branch libraries and education, said in a statement earlier this month.
“Public libraries are uniquely positioned to do this while students are out of the classroom over the summer months, providing quality, free programs to engage their minds while also getting them excited about books, reading, learning, and their communities.”
As a fiction writer who teaches, I often speak about what I love in fiction, what to me makes it powerful and engaging.
This is a version of a talk I have been giving for years to students and other interested parties; it is a talk I’ve become — what is the right word? — uncertain about in the last five years, not because I don’t believe what I’m saying or that I care about it less but because I’m not sure that people can find it meaningful anymore.
There are a number of reasons I feel this, most of which have to do with how we take in knowledge and information and how that has changed the nature of perception. I’m not saying anything new here: think iPhones and the constant staring there at, a skull-fracturing change which plainly has consequences beyond how people understand the reading and writing of fiction.