On Being a Modern Gentleman:
Guideline 2:Read Books
For the most part, this is a blog about writing and reading, so it should come as no surprise that reading would be one of my requirements for being a modern gentleman. Aside from regular exercise, reading should be the most important activity in your life.
Recent studies show that while literacy rates are increasing in most of the world, the number of individuals reading books is falling, particularly in the US among men and young adults. In recent decades, the percentage of men who read books (fiction or nonfiction) has fallen, and now upcoming generations are reading less than their forebears. Some statistics, frightening even if only partially accurate, claim that only 25% of Americans read a book each year. If young adults and men read less than other segments of the population, I can only imagine their rates.
As an avid reader and a writer, this hits me right in the feels. I take it personally. I wonder if our failing educational system is the cause or result of a growing disinterest in reading. Although, I could probably attribute most of society’s ills to fewer readers, but I’m biased.
To be a modern gentlemen, be a reader. Read widely. Read deeply. Sir Francis Bacon sagely wrote, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore. . . if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.” A gentlemen should be knowledgeable, empathetic, creative, and worldly, and I know of no better way to foster these skills and characteristics than through reading. Psychologists argue that reading helps to develop empathy, our theory of mind ability, basic social skills, and concentration, which are all skills we need to hone.
This month, I challenge you to read a book–fiction, memoir, travelogue, or whatever else suits your fancy. If you finish one book, read another. Hell, read a third. To quote Bacon again, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Find a book to suit each: an apéritif, an hors d’oeuvre, and a delectable main course.
Good reading, folks.