CNN host Don Lemon exhorts viewers, on what seems like a regular basis, to read the Mueller report.

As a school librarian, I am intrigued by his plea.

Regardless of the politics involved, I want to see people reading.

Yet the conventional wisdom in pundit-land is that Americans won’t take an interest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and aspects of President Donald Trump’s behavior unless there are televised impeachment hearings, as there were in the Watergate affair.

I well remember watching those hearings back in the 1970s — I was glued to the set — but I also read plenty about the situation. I was taking a high school advanced placement class and had to compare coverage in the conservative National Review and the liberal New Republic. My family took an extended cross-country trip that year, so I had to do this homework in the back of a camper.

Of course, I’m an avid reader who grew up to to be a writer and a librarian. I don’t expect everyone to be as nerdy as me, even the 17-year-old me, who was self-conscious about appearing to be a geek.

Still, I would like to see people reading more, and I don’t mean Twitter and Facebook posts.

“Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election,” also known as the Mueller report, will do. It was on the bestseller lists for a while. But how many people actually have read it? Apparently, not even some key elected officials.

The Washington Post asked House and Senate members of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees if they’d read the report. More than three in 10 “declined to respond to five yes-or-no questions after repeated contact attempts, offered unclear answers or said they have not read the full report.”

Whoa, Nellie.

The NPR show “Hidden Brain” recently did a feature on the decline of local newspapers. Host Shankar Vedantam reported on research showing that, when newspapers close, the affected municipalities borrow money at higher interest rates. The “watchdog” is gone, so municipalities have more leeway to make bad decisions.

There are many reasons why newspapers go out of business, but let’s face it. A major reason is that, when they fail, it’s because fewer people are reading them. That eats away at advertising revenue, etc.

And that’s not the only real-world consequence of people avoiding the written word except in its simplest, easiest-to-digest form. (Yes, Twitter and Facebook).

Post columnist Max Boot recently wrote a piece with the headline “Are we becoming too stupid to govern ourselves?” He discusses anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and Flat Earthers, who obviously are not getting their news from this newspaper, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. “One study of the 2016 election found that the 20 top false articles combined on Facebook were shared, reacted to or commented on more widely than the 20 top mainstream news articles combined.”

I bet few of those people reading false articles got beyond the first paragraph. Those “readers” were simply passing along lurid headlines.

The French movie “Non-Fiction” is set in the Parisian publishing world. The characters endlessly discuss people’s reading habits. E-books were supposed to save publishing, but they’re falling out of favor. Now audiobooks rule. Not only are they convenient, the movie’s characters explain, but they often are narrated by celebrities.

I like that the French value intellectualism. No American would even attempt to make a film in which characters do little else but talk, eat fabulous food, talk, drink wine, talk, and get busy in the bedroom. Imagine — they spend two hours essentially talking about ideas.

Even so, one of the characters is a digital guru for a publishing house. At a conference, she and some other self-important techie-type declare the death of libraries. They will have to be “repurposed,” moviegoers are told, which brought to my mind Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.

I could not help but snort loudly. As I wrote recently in this space, libraries are alive and well, thank you very much.

I would be the first to admit that it’s not all about the books nowadays, nor would I wish it to be. I just want more people to read.

Astronaut Christa McAuliffe, who perished in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, said, “I touch the future, I teach.” My hope for future readers is kindled every time I see elementary students huddled together over picture books, pointing and laughing, or amazed at some weird feat in the “Guinness Book of World Records.”

But the country they will venture into doesn’t nourish that curiosity, that urge to learn.

Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The Allies went on to defeat the Nazis, who burned books. It’s a perfect day to celebrate our right to read — how about by reading all about it?

 

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].


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