Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We are we are, the youth that doesn't read

  by Pascal Assaf "قلت لوطني: من أجلك أكتب... قال لي: من أجلي إقرأ" 
"I told my country: It is for your sake that i write... he replied: for my sake do read" - Rough translation of the above quote.

A person constantly looks into enhancing her surrounding, be it her office desk, her room, her car, her house, and the more ambitious and patient and hopeful a person is, the more enhancement on bigger levels does this person wish for. Maybe the building entrance, the street, family's status, friends' dreams, the whole country even.

I ask you, how can an individual do the above, if they don't constantly feed their soul and mind with fresh information and rooted knowledge?

My first impression of Paris 3 years ago, was me criticizing how some people read while on the metro or while walking and on their way to work. A week later I did the same as them. No minute is lost, no time is wasted, every second is a chance to learn something new.
There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.  ~G.K. Chesterton [2]
Sitting with your friends or acquaintances requires a good quota available at each person in order to trigger and generate discussion & debates. What for? Why not stick to watching Turkish series translated into Syrian, or talk of the town shows? They're more entertaining, aren't they? We're in this life to have fun and be happy.
Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.  ~Author Unknown [2]
Reading, what is it good for?
Reading is like providing the mind with nourishment. Knowledge is the food for the mind and soul. Apart from giving us the basic information about the world around us, it also provides us with the food for thought. It encourages us to think. It increases our hunger for knowledge and our thirst to learn more [1]
There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them~ Joseph Brodsky. 
How come TV has become a replacement to our brains?
According to Edouard MONIN, CEO - Ipsos MENA, the average number of TV watching in Lebanon on an individual level is 5 hours and a half.
I find television to be very educating.  Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.  ~Groucho Marx [2]
Reading online magazines & newspapers
True that most of us internet junkies, especially those of us who are on twitter and are exposed to hundreds of articles on a daily basis read at least 1 per day. These are not official statistics, but just my speculation from what I have observed. In addition to news, which we can usually retrieve from TV, we have the opportunity to dig in Technology news, people, science, global, psychology, art, miscellaneous news etc...

There are of course the offline users, I really have no statistical data concerning this activity, but I guess we all have an idea on how much people pick up a book or newspaper and read it at a café or at the comfort of their homes, just by observing our neighbors, friends, family and relatives.

Not reading at all
But what about those who aren't on twitter, and how many of us are on twitter and do actually use twitter as a knowledge push tool? 300 maybe, because I think there is only about 500 to 600 active Lebanese twitterer. Add to them people at work who do some browsing (not talking about facebook of course)... It's still a small number.

Most of our "free" time is spent watching TV, having dinner out, sipping some coffee in a café, smoking a hookah, clubbing, malls, movies... Now of course I am not dubbing all Lebanese as people who do nothing except the previously mentioned activities, but look around you and ask people you know. How do they spend their spare time? And how much time to they dedicate to this and that?



  1. Very true !
    although i do think that considerable part of "offline" people do represent a large percentage of readers, considering the distractions that Online commitment requires.

    Personally,regarding this topic, i got me a Kindle ! ( & i recommend it)

  2. Spot-on!

    Although I don't consider myself a heavy reader, but I do manage to get an hour on Kindle every night before I sleep, it makes me relax.

  3. I read all day every day. Maybe not books, but industry publications, the news, blogs, blogs, and more blogs..but still, that doesn't make up for not reading more books. I realized this weekend that I couldn't remember the last time I read a book. And not a book for work..but a novel..something I used to do so much of. Reading a book can be one of the most rewarding experiences in get a chance to become someone be the voyeur peeping into other people's lives. I think it's absolutely fantastic..and I realized that I need to pry myself away from the computer more often and train myself to be patient enough to read again.. My creativity (and my vocabulary) are craving nourishment that only a book can provide. Great post..what book are you currently reading? :D

  4. It's true that in Europe or when you use public transport you always have a book with you. When i was in London and Chelsea were at home, it used to take me two hours to get home but I didn't mind because I could read. Now, having to drive everywhere it is more difficult. For me reading books is the most important part of my day, once the pc is switched off. Reading online is not the same. It is current, informative, but nothing can replace a book.
    Great post Lil :-))

  5. Love the way you wrote this - with the quotations and the picture - (yeah, not the point, I know). We are indeed a nation that does not read. It is partly due to the way we were raised, I guess. Any suggestions for reform? ;) I'm in.

  6. very true micha, reading online is not the same, reading a newspaper offline, or its equivalent online is not the same. Books and novels and reflections are very very different :)

    Celine, very sad :/

    Danielle, well I am going to finally start 1984 (cc Bilal :P) and am currently fiddling through The Philosophy Behind House (the series), and Salvador Dali's bio & paintings thingie.

    Arch & Bilal fhemna inno into rab el tech :P ;) Bilal, an hour a day is more than enough in my opinion. I wish I can accomplish that

  7. 1984 is gonna cast a "book-loving" Spell on U . U'll see ;)

  8. Youmna hehe, thank you, actually I noticed that a post with no photo is like dead :P plus the photo says a lot :) and the quotes, they can be a post on their own without me even adding anything to them! glad you liked it.

    Maybe we should form book clubs? is that corny?

  9. Book club for tweeps :) not corny - we have talked about it before, but we did not see it through. Shall we work on it? (I wish i could tag a few people in this comment)

  10. 1984 is one of my favourites.
    I heard somewhere that the average reading rate for the Arab world is measured not in books per year, but in sentences per year :P (speaking offline books obviously)
    I find that I read pretty well under tight deadlines, like library return deadlines for uni. Though we don't really have any public libraries (that I know of) like in the West, maybe that will help push people? I own many books but they've just been lying around.

  11. Gilly hmmm maybe we could encourage somehow book sharing amongst ourselves, under deadline :P or like if you my friend dont return this book by this date, you have to take the whole book club for lunch or something, what do you think Youmna? As for tagging... you can always facebook link it and tag or twitter or something :P blogspot (my blog's platform) is a bit retro when it comes to technology lol

    Arch, for sure :) khalas am starting tonight

  12. Amazing post :) loved it and loved the quotes...
    as for the translation, how about :

    "I told my country: It is for your sake that i write... he replied: for my sake do read"

    Arch too bad that kindle doesn't read Arabic :)

    Well i decided beginning of 2011 a challenge to read a 100 book :D this year

    i read whenever i can find time, reading is the sport of the mind...

    thank you for quoting me my beloved sister...
    love you.

    1984 is an amazing book, thank you for Bilal for introducing it to me.. now i am collecting/reading all Orwell's books.

  13. Lilo, it's easy to accomplish an hour a day, try at least 30 minutes before you sleep, go to bed 30 minutes early and grab a book! [or you can learn to be technologically advanced like Archangelus and myself and buy a Kindle :P ]

  14. Gilly has a point! a good public library would be a dream come true...

  15. @Youmna and @Gilly there are many public libraries in Lebanon, mostly are free, check here

    I am in for a book Club.

  16. @pascalAssaf wow.... which would be the best/biggest? Ever been to any of those? - @Liliane we should create a platform or poll where people can "sign up" for #theCube

  17. Beautifully written blog Lilian. Very to the point and it hits home big time. I love how Books make me reflect and introspect. Rainy cold winter nights are usually ideal time of the year for my book consumption. This winter is not any different :)

  18. In the UK reading is encouraged from babyhood.Free books are given to pre schoolers and mothers attend library sessions with their toddlers and playgroups where stories are read to them.You can buy books cheaply from the supermarket and libraries are everywhere and are free.Schools encourage book clubs and school children have to do research at libraries etc.I have been shocked at my university students where I teach admitting to not reading any books apart from (the usually photocopied) parts of books they are supposed to read. Lack of reading in the Arabic world in general isn't encouraged by the governments and is left to the individual. This lack of reading and general knowledge is very obvious to an outsider and the students here in Lebanon and other Arab countries are generally very narrow in their views and unable to be creative and think outside the box.Of course not everyone is the same and there are a lot of educated people.
    To create a reading culture requires a huge effort by the government and educational system.When you live in a country that still does not have full time electricity and poor rates of employment/good money etc for the youth nothing will change for a very long time.
    It is hugely important to develop this culture of reading,even if many people don't recognise it at the present.It will at least give people something other than politics and the latest soap story to talk about.
    In Tripoli at least,Safadi has paid for a beautiful library which many people aren't aware of and it is definitely underused,so in this instance we can only blame ourselves if we are not reading.

  19. Great post!

    The Kindle is the best workaround mitigating the lack of public libraries, I cant recommend it enough! Other than the excellent quality of the screen (you'd think you're reading ink on paper, not an electronic screen), the excellent battery life (weeks!), it has many advantages. You can easily share ebooks with friends, they're typically smaller in size than a single photo. You can easily acquire the books online - in seconds! - (both legally, and pirated), the only condition is that the book is published in some ebook format. If you have an ebook reader, I strongly recommend the "Calibre" software, it's sort of an iTunes for books, to organize, share, convert, etc.

    Too bad the Kindle doesn't render Arabic. Are any Arabic books published in Arabic format anyway?

    I am lucky to be currently in a city where I can commute by bus to work, and get 30 minutes of reading time each way. It was very challenging to find any quiet reading time when I was in Beirut, between traffic, work and the many social 'obligations'.

    Out of curiosity, where do you guys get recommendations for the next book to read?

  20. Hi Zak and lost. thanks a lot for your comments, I agree with you both, also thanks for the extra useful info you provided!

    Concerning the next recommendations for the next book and such, at this point nothing existed before this post, but we've been talking, those of us who are excited and interested in this project, and we will be forming a book club, named the Cube! I will be writing about it in the next post, once we decide what the next step is going to be, and everyone who is for the reading culture is welcome to climb on board

  21. i dream about a public library in Lebanon ... i love the article, it reflects the reality of the new generation. I barely find people who really read, it's sad ....

  22. Great Post, I would like to add that the Internet as It Is, have a massive knowledge, but most ppl use trivial things from it.

    I actually found out a very educational, albeit funny website, and I'm not sure if everyone here is aware of it:

    it is a good source for many facts and funny things from all around the world, and it acts as a " knowledge for dummies" sort of thing.

    while at no point it can replace the pleasure of a good old book reading session, it is something else we can check daily other than spamming likes on facebook.

  23. Another note, the educational system is to blame, having teachers that ask students to make a "Project" about a certain topic, in which the student copy and paste from wikipedia, submit the "project" and get an A for it, is not only enhancing the ignorance, it also teaches plagiarism as if it is something normal.

    Or kids that are 10 years old and fail to know that Beirut is the capital of Lebanon.

    With such educational system, you cannot blame most of the population for not reading, as seeking knowledge is not something they find interesting, even persons who are considered smart and have high grades, many of them fall gracefully when it comes to general Knowledge.

    But then again, lets get a better Internet and 24/7 electricity first before we start asking for a real public library that we can actually subscribe, borrow a book, and return it, or a museum that have a decent collection of worthy artefacts and history figures/events, or ...

    ok I'll stop now .

  24. FireVai, I totally agree with you. It is because of the educational system! and our culture, donno which came firsT!

    Firass, same point as FireVai, agreed. But I meant here to demand a public library, I m here to try to touch down on WHY we are not a reading nation? and how can we improve that? we're starting some sort thing, book club, to be electrilized online, if anyone's interested :)

  25. LOL you're the same person! haha... okay so :P makes sense that i agreed on the same point hehe

  26. yeah firevai was like an old user name that I thought wasn't appropriate to communicate with anymore, so I changed it after I noticed it :)

    you have a GREAT blog, it is wonderful to see other Lebanese who share a high sense of criticism toward this country and who are at least trying to make it better.

    I am interested in a book club so I will be following your blog for possible updates about it :)