It is obvious that Liesel treasures her books and her time spent learning to read with Hans. Throughout the novel we get the sense that the narrator, and by extension Markus Zusak, also sees the value of books and stories.
No everyone agrees with them, however.
Here are a few quotes from the article “Do You Need to Read Books to be Clever?“:
- [Half of men] aged 16 to 24…haven’t read a single book in the past 12 months, making this group the least likely to read books, according to [British] government statistics.
- Professor John Sutherland, who has chaired the Booker prize judging panel: “The best storage system we have is the book. Few artefacts have lasted as enduringly – and few will. If you dropped Chaucer into the middle of Oxford Street today he wouldn’t have a clue what was going on, but if you took him to a bookshop he’d know exactly what they were, even be able to find his own work.”
- “I didn’t read a book last year and don’t know when I will read one,” says Jamie Sharp, 37. “That doesn’t make me illiterate or stupid, I just get my information in other ways. I read a paper everyday and use the internet. That probably makes me better informed than a lot of book readers out there. They may read a book but it’s just as likely to be David Beckham’s autobiography as it is Shakespeare.” And reading involves intellectual snobbery, he says. “It always has to be about certain types of books. Often people just read them because they think they should, not because they want to. Sometimes they pretend to have read them to look intelligent.”
- Books are important, but it’s reading itself is an essential skill, says Honor Wilson-Fletcher, project director for the National Year of Reading. “It’s not for nothing that books have been burned over the centuries,” she says. “They are repositories of ideas and ideas empower people and broaden their horizons. But because the cultural landscape is changing so much we need to recognise every variety of reading and acknowledge being able to read has never been so important. No medium is less important than any other, be it a classic novel, Scott’s last message from the North Pole, one of Morrissey’s lyrics or graffiti on a wall – they can all educate and change lives. This is not a year of worthiness, it’s a year of reading.”
The BBC compiled a list several years ago of books they believed everyone should read–but probably hasn’t. In fact, they think that the average person has read only six of the books on the list. How many have you read?
Do books still have value in our society? How often do you, and the people you know, read? Is any of it for pleasure, or is it simply because you have to? Do you think the next generation will value reading? Should books all be in the public domain (so that anyone can read, copy, and distribute them) , such as in Google Books, or should writing and publishing continue to be mostly for-profit? How is the way we are changing the access to books changing our approach to, and value of, them?
That’s a lot of questions! Choose a few to respond to, and/or add any thoughts you have on this topic of the value of books and reading.