College students’ reading habits ain’t what they used to be, laments Ron Charles, a senior editor at The Washington Post’s Book World.
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s monthly list of best-selling titles on college campuses, Mr. Charles notes, has lately been dominated by the vampire tales of Stephenie Meyer and the inspirational stories of Barack Obama. Forty years earlier — amid the passion of civil rights, Vietnam, and the women’s movement — student tastes ran more along the lines of Howl, Soul on Ice, and the poetry of Sylvia Plath.
Today “we have a generation of young adults away from home for the first time, free to enjoy the most experimental period of their lives, yet they’re choosing books like 13-year-old girls — or their parents,” he writes. “The only specter haunting the groves of American academe seems to be suburban contentment.”
Not everyone shares his alarm, reports Mr. Charles. Mike Connery, who writes for the Web site Future Majority, says that the top titles are simply what people are reading to escape. They absorb their politics through blogs and social networks, he says.
Mr. Charles isn’t buying that argument. “For the Twitter generation, the new slogan seems to be ‘Don’t trust anyone over 140 characters,’ he writes. “What you see at the next revolution is far more likely to be a well-designed Web site than a radical novel or a poem. Not to be a drag, but that’s so uncool.” —Don Troop