Reading in Recession

Every day I read several different blogs — one of them happens to be The Guardian’s Book Blog. Last week I read an entry that gives some frank advice to writers, in point form, basically letting them know they shouldn’t panic during the current recession. While I’m a writer and I think the advice is good, the entry got me thinking about the other side of that coin: the reading public. What will people who like to read do, during a recession, if there’s not enough good writing being published? This lead me to the conclusion that one of the best things that anyone can do during an economic downturn of any sort is read!

A recession, as defined by the dictionary on my computer (Oxford American), is:

recession |riˈse sh ən|
noun
1 a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.
2 chiefly Astronomy the action of receding; motion away from an observer.

Obviously, we’re dealing with the first definition, here.

The key word that’s used in this definition, I think, is temporary — there is an end to a recession! There will be an end to this recession, even. This is a good thing. So, while we’re all sitting around, twiddling our thumbs, wondering what to do while the recession passes and things start to look up again, we’re going to have to find something to do with our time; preferably, something that doesn’t cost a whole bloody lot of cash that we actually don’t have.

Everyone knows how I feel about reading, and I’ve written a lot about it lately. My bias aside, I really think that reading anything and everything is always a good thing for everyone. Reading has its benefits: it can be enjoyable, leisurely, informative, educational, and all-around perception-altering and mind-expanding. It is, however, at its very basic level: information intake. Clearly, no one can take much issue with that.

During times of hardship (recession, war, bad Oscar fashion, etc.), to engage in the simple act of reading makes a lot of sense. When nothing seems to be particularly pleasant, reading can provide an excellent escape to another time and place, and — for a time — take your mind off your own troubles, no matter how varied and harried they may be. Of course, no one would want us all to get lost in a fantasy world while the world economy is going down the can, but luckily there are many excellent news sources, non-fiction, and the formidable blog-o-sphere to keep us all on our toes and commiserating with one another over our collective woes.

Woes? What woes? Money woes, evidently. Right now, we’re in a bit of a state over the amount of money that we don’t have, and it’s causing a good bit of panic on all fronts, in all quarters, and from all corners of the world. Industries of all sorts are going through their own versions of downsizing and rearranging, and people are frightened to spend and invest; hence everyone’s buying less stuff and staying home a lot more. With all that time on our hands, picking up some quality (or not-so-quality) literature is one of the cheapest things we could be doing, and it serves as an excellent time-filler. There are books out there that cost less than your average fancy-pants, coffee-related drink, and they can serve as hours of entertainment or enlightenment; not to mention that reading material is an excellent investment to make, the life-value of which is incalculable.

I know that there are scads of people out there who could make a similar case for things like television programming, time spent with those you love, getting out and about, exercising, etc. All of these things have their benefits too, and I think we should all do more of each — I just think reading has an excellent set of benefits and that the case for doing that particular deed should be heard: reading is a fantastic thing to do, and it results in the reader having expanded their horizons in a fulfilling way. In a time when we’re strapped for cash and anxious to get ourselves righted again, what better thing to do than to read up and write on?

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