JUST READ. – Francesca Lanni, Italy

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us”.

By all appearances, Italians do not agree with this quote by the famous novelist Franz Kafka. Actually, according to the Association of Italian Publishers (AIE), the number of readers is estimated to be declining. Only 43% of the whole population reads at least one book a year, and only 37% buy a book before reading it. However,  every year approximately 60,000 new books are published. A majority of these goods will neither be bought nor be read by anyone, and thus, end up as wasted goods.

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The main reason for this displeasing phenomenon is the fact that most Italians are not avid readers. This influences publishers in their market choices: a population that is not in love with a specific literary genre has the potential to become interested in something new, so publishers try to offer a variety of books which may potentially interest as many people as possible. However, the only kinds of books still selling in Italy are the “hot off the press” ones. It is a shame they will not be hot off the press forever. In fact, nothing seems to be encouraging Italians to buy books. Most of them just let advertising take the wheel, but advertisements do not necessarily promote good books. They promote books that are written by famous authors or that deal with specific and attractive topics and while these kinds of low-quality books might even be appreciated by the public, they will surely not make the readers avid. The problem with them is that these books generally do not have a complex story, their characters are often based on stereotypes and their style of writing is ordinary and generically simplistic.

People are not looking for platitude and they don’t even know it; by buying these kinds of low-quality books, they prove how easily complex actions can turn into habits. It is ironic that books themselves can become routine especially since reading should be a way of breaking out of routine. Readers want to find themselves and their own story in a book; they can even empathize with a flat character, but not after having read about a round one. It is necessary in order to realize that we are more than stereotypes and our story is more than a romance. Our life is more than love and jealousy, but a vast majority of the books published in this period seem to ignore this fact, as if they wanted to convince us otherwise. It is simpler to discover new mediocre literary stars than to find great writers, so they just try to persuade us that their books are what we need. In fact, this is untrue.

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A book should make us think about how unbelievable it is that someone could literally “write an emotion” as if you felt it while reading. It should make us live a new life, a 400-pages long life we will always remember. It should be a friend we want to meet several times in our lifetime in order to know them better and better and to grow up with them noticing new details at every “meeting”. It should make us think that we as humans all feel the same sensations, experience the same struggles, and find ourselves in the same situations, no matter what our life is like.

Let a book be the axe. I promise you it will not hurt.

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