Friday, April 23, 2010

Read Argentina!

by Rachel

One of the things I love to do when I have spare time on the weekends, is to sit in cafés and read. There’s nothing quite like a lazy Sunday afternoon spent with a good book and hot coffee, surrounded by other readers with good books and hot coffee. So reading this BBC News article made me appreciate my lazy café reading time even more.

According to the article, today only 10% of Argentina’s population buys and reads books because of repeated blows to the publishing industry including the banning of books in the 1970’s, the economic crisis in the early 2000’s, and the recent boom in electronic media which has proved to be stiff competition for publishers. In contrast, a NY Times article from 2009 indicated that 50% of adults in the U.S. had read books in print or online within the previous 12 months.

Wanting to promote reading across the city of Buenos Aires, the government has set out to furnish cafés with books by great writers such as Pablo Neruda and Julio Cortazar. Other schemes are also in place to promote reading, including the giving away of books to school children so they can start to build their own collections at home, and large book purchases for school libraries. This is definitely something I like hearing about!

There’s a long list of authors I’d suggest to promote reading--perhaps Dickens? Camus? Twain?

Which books would you give to encourage new readers?

11 comments:

  1. Wow, even that 50% is just so depressing to me.

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  2. They do need to do more reading!
    You could start with this list:
    http://www.thebest100lists.com/best100authors/

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  3. I agree that the 50% statistic in the US is depressing, and also that the Best 100 list is a good place to start.

    I'd probably start with books I've given to reluctant readers that have worked out quite well. Most things by Vonnegut; I'm thinking CAT'S CRADLE might work nicely. THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. Lots of classics, but also books with lots of action and excitement to pull the reader in. I'm not too familiar with many South American authors, but I'd definitely add some in so it's not just a pile of books by white males.

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  4. Dickens? Good god, they may never want to read again.

    I think we should hit them with DIRTY HAVANA TRILOGY by Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, follow it up with THE FEAST OF THE GOAT by Mario Vargas Llosa, and finish them off with THE WAR OF DON EMMANUEL'S NETHER PARTS by Louis de Bernieres.

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  5. Well, I gave a 12 year-old girl the complete set of Vesper Holly stories by Lloyd Alexander I also give books to kids at church---I make it my duty to "feed their heads." While she was growing up I gave my daughter books written by and/or about strong-minded women. (You should see her now--an educator and opera singer). I'm maintaining my tradition with my granddaughter. I make sure there's a good balance of history, biography, sci-fi, mystery, science, and so on.

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  6. You cant beat reading in cafe's. A great mixture of my to favourite things cake and the written word

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  7. My 16-year-old daughter reads like crazy now, but a few years ago, she went through a stage wherein she wouldn't touch a book. I tried my damnedest to get her back into it. I tried the Harry Potter books, but they were too long. After watching the movie, Girl, Interrupted, I bought her the book & it worked; she loved it! Then she moved on to Crank & Impulse - novels in a journal form. Now she's back into reading (thank God!) and she's read all the Twilight books and more. Now she wants to read White Oleander, after seeing the movie. I'm thrilled - my baby is finally into Woman's Fiction!

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  8. What David said. I've really enjoyed Dickens, but I don't think he's a good starter author.

    Depending on the person's tastes, I'd go for Robert B Parker's detective series or Janet Evanovich's funny books, because they are sheer fun. Then I'd recommend Amy Tan's or Barbara Kingsolver's books because they are both accessible and compelling, and then maybe John Steinbeck, Terry Pratchett, and Bill Bryson. After that, I probably wouldn't have to recommend anything, they'd have seen the light.

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  9. I like Buddhadeva Bose's "My Kind of Girl" as a nice book to consider.

    It's short and yet wonderfully evocative of a particularly kind of gathering.

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  10. ... while serving time in Siberia, Dostoevsky devoured David Copperfield and Pickwick Papers I believe. Dickens must have a lot of draw for even the most reluctant of readers, as such, if a guy doing hard labor in a prison camp could get into reading his works. So I think Dickens is a good pick. I enjoyed his works, myself, particularly Oliver Twist.

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  11. That BBC article is a bit misinformed. I've lived in Buenos Aires for the last 5 years, & it's the most literary city I've ever experienced. People may not buy new books because those are usually priced at Euro prices since most fiction is imported by large publishers from Spain, which puts the prices way higher than most locals can afford. But there's a huge second-hand and remainder book market that does great business. No shortage of readers in Buenos Aires; just an abundance of over priced books.

    The city's reading program is a nice tip of the hat to the great literary tradition that resides in this city. But spend anytime sitting in a cafe and you'll see many people reading either their own books or the newspaper, which every cafe provides for free.

    To encourage new readers? Let people discover that the original Sherlock Holmes stories are so much better than that recent, big budget movie version.

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