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The peril -- or wisdom? -- of reading too much: 5 Signs

February 25, 2008 |  8:38 am

Weds. a.m.:
Is there such a thing as reading too much? Sounds like heresy. What with all the studies that show Americans are reading less, reading while watching TV or reading only for work. "To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence," the National Endowment for the Arts study released in November, revealed that as a nation we are reading less and less for pleasure: one half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure, a number that correlates with less participation in civic and cultural life, lower pay and fewer chances for advancement at work. Yeah, well, reading too much also has its perils.

Here are some of the downsides of reading too much:

Disorientation: The mood and landscape of the book you are reading is dark and obscure but you actually live in sunny Southern California.

Amplification: The heightened sense of urgency you feel reading the novel is incompatible with daily life.

Social Interaction: The colleagues you don’t know in the elevator are not ready for the kind of intimate conversation that takes place in the novel you are reading.

Dissatisfaction: The people in your life are not as thrilling, fascinating, emotionally evolved, intelligent, sincere or well-read as the characters in the novel. Your own life seems gray, wooden and boring by comparison.

Severe Loneliness: No one you know has read the novel you just finished, so there is no one to talk to about it, which heightens your sense of alienation and isolation.

Sounds like a recipe for psychosis to me.

Susan Salter Reynolds