November 11, 2012

Reality TV and Reading

My mom sent me an email today and asked me to help a family friend who was looking for suggestions of books to read with her 17 year-old daughter who doesn't like reading. Of course, I jumped on it right away and threw together a list of many of my (and my students' favorites).

In case you're wondering, here's the list I sent:

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (My post is here.)
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (You can read my post about this book too.)
Marley and Me by John Grogan
Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
Seriously, I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

After looking over my list, I realized how surprised I was at the number of non-fiction books. When I was a kid, this would have been my last choice in reading, but now, I have more autobiographies on my list than fiction books. Which, of course, led me to question why that was the case.

Partially, I think it's because when we were forced to read non-fiction, it meant we were reading a textbook or a biography/autobiography on someone assigned. Usually, it was a person about whom I had very little interest, like a president or other "ancient" leader. Certainly, I would have been more interested to read about people I liked.

I'm willing to accept that some level of this interest comes with age and maturity. I know I'm much more open and interested in learning from others today than I was when I was a child. Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike was the first autobiography I read by choice, and I really pondered his perspective on life and loss.

Also, though, I wonder if there's any evidence that shows an increase in non-fiction reading since the birth and evolution of reality television. We are basically encouraged to become voyeurs by following everything about peoples' lives. And somehow, we've been convinced (I include myself in this. You know how much I love my reality trash.) that it's entertaining to know every last detail about celebrities and reality-celebrities.

I'm inclined to believe that this shift in television and magazine entertainment has helped increase my (and perhaps others') interest in non-fiction. I mean, if it's fun to see pictures of where they're eating and what they're eating, it must be even better to hear their thoughts in their own autobiographies, right? We just can't get enough of these people!

What about you? Do you think you read more autobiographies now than ever before?

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