The Importance Of Reading

I not only read but also write—short stories, poems, and murder mystery novels. My work is nothing super special, but it’s mine. I like to think it is an avenue providing escape, relaxation, entertainment, and a certain amount of pleasure to my readers. Sadly, book readership in America is declining, and I find that fact a bit depressing for several reasons, not the least of which is book sales. Beyond a personal business perspective, I am concerned for the long-term effects on society. Those effects can be devastating.

People Who Read Are Smarter

It’s true. People who read are, by in large, smarter. Why? Because reading is an essential skill that plays a vital role in personal and societal development. People who read books are often less ignorant about people, places, and things than people who don’t. Reading signifies a baseline intelligence, and careful choices of reading material may enhance that intelligence. Reading allows individuals to expand their knowledge, improve cognitive abilities and imagination, and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. Reading for pleasure also provides an enjoyable and relaxing way to unwind and escape from the stresses of daily life. However, the statistics show reading for pleasure is becoming less common among Americans. According to ThinkImpact’s Literacy Statistics,  in 2004, 28% of Americans age 15 and older read for pleasure on a given day. Last year, in 2022, the figure was about 19%. This decline in reading for pleasure is concerning and highlights the importance of encouraging and promoting reading among individuals of all ages.

Not Reading Has Considerable Downsides

Illiteracy is a significant problem in the United States, with 21% of adults being illiterate in 2022, and 54% having a literacy level below 6th grade. Illiteracy not only hinders the personal growth and development of individuals, but also has a detrimental effect on society. Low levels of literacy lead to a lack of workforce productivity, increased poverty, and higher crime rates. Studies have shown that illiterate individuals are more likely to be unemployed, have lower earning potential, and be dependent on government assistance. Furthermore, they are more likely to end up in prison, have poor health outcomes, and be unable to fully participate in society.

The cost of illiteracy is staggering, with some estimates suggesting that it costs the US up to $2.2 trillion per year. This highlights the importance of addressing the problem of illiteracy and investing in programs that promote literacy and reading. These programs include adult literacy programs, English as a second language classes, and programs that provide children with access to books and reading materials.

I have no doubt reading is an essential skill that plays a vital role in personal and societal development. However, the decline in reading for pleasure among Americans and the high levels of illiteracy in the US do not bode well for the future. I believe it is crucial to encourage and promote reading among individuals of all ages and invest in programs and activities promoting literacy and reading. By addressing the problem of illiteracy, we can improve the productivity of our workforce, reduce poverty, and create a more educated and engaged society.

And, while we are on the subject, what have you read lately?

Popular, Basic Mystery Story Plots

In April 2022, I had a heart attack and spent ten days in the intensive care unit. I had wonderful surgeons, doctors, nurses, and staff that were professional, proficient. To them, I will always be grateful. They saved my life. While lying in recovery following surgery, I had lots of time to think. Of course, my mind went to writing and the several works in progress that languish on my computer and the notepad on my writing desk. Yes, I still use a lined notepad and pencil to jot down notes and ideas. Why? Because I do not and will not ever completely trust computers. Sorry, computer people, but if I can’t hold it in my hand, it doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, while contemplating my next series of murder mystery short stories (because it seemed easier than working out the perennial writer’s-block I’m experiencing for my second murder mystery novel), I began contemplating some of the better-known murder mystery plots published through the years.

I have a short list of ten recurring plot lines and have listed examples of one or more published murder mystery stories that follow said plot. Read along. I’m sure you can think of other examples to illustrate the plot lines.

Our first murder mystery plot involves a murder that occurs in a small town or village and the local detective must solve the crime. My choice of an example is “The Moving Finger” by Agatha Christie. A small village is tormented by apparent suicides and vicious, anonymous hate letters. Miss Marple to the rescue.

Second plot:  A detective or amateur sleuth must solve a series of murders that are connected by a common thread.  “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson featuring a Swedish publisher turned amateur sleuth who solves a series of murders connected by a common thread and is a perfect fit for our example plot.

Third on the list:  A person is falsely accused of a crime and must clear their name. “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow features a person falsely accused and who must clear their name and so, clearly fits the bill of our number three plot.

Plot Four:  A treasure or valuable item is stolen, and the thief must be caught. Since this is part of the main plot of my Celtic murder mystery, “Mystery of the Death Hearth” I will defer instead to the classic “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle—a collection of short stories featuring the famous detective solving various mysteries; in one of them, a treasure or valuable item is stolen, and the thief must be caught. Another contender with the same plot line is, Agatha Christie’s “Theft of the Royal Ruby” with her intrepid detective, Hercule Poirot.

At number five:  A missing person case is solved by a private investigator. Let’s go for another of the classics here and select “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler featuring a private investigator, Philip Marlowe. He’s hired to find a missing person, but the case soon becomes a complicated web of murder, blackmail, and corruption.

My sixth selection:  A serial killer is on the loose and must be caught before they strike again. “Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris featuring a serial killer who is on the loose and must be caught before they strike again. The story follows FBI agent Clarice Starling as she hunts down the infamous serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” I wouldn’t recommend reading this before going to bed for the night.

Number seven on the list:  A crime boss or organized crime ring is taken down by law enforcement. “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo featuring a crime boss and organized crime ring busted by law enforcement. The story is about the Corleone crime family, the patriarch Vito Corleone, his sons Michael, Fredo, and Sonny, and their criminal empire.

Our eighth plot:     A murder takes place in a closed community, such as a boarding school or monastery. Not a book, but “Murder in the Cathedral” by T.S. Eliot is a play. It’s a verse drama about the assassination of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. The play is set in the Cathedral, and the characters are the monks, the priests and the people who were present at the time of the murder. But if you’re not into plays, check out the book “Name of the Rose” by Italian author, Umberto Eco. That historical murder mystery is set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327. One of my personal favorites.

At number nine we have:   A detective or amateur sleuth must solve a crime that has been unsolved for years or decades. “In the Woods” by Tana French is the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. Here, a detective must solve a crime that has been unsolved for years. The story follows detective Rob Ryan who returns to his hometown (where he was a victim of a traumatic event as a child) to investigate a murder case that has eerie similarities with the one from his past.

Number ten:  A crime is committed on a luxury train or ship, and the suspects are all passengers or crew members. Well, of course, I’m going with the classic “Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie. A crime is committed on a luxury ship, the S.S. Karnak, and the suspects are all passengers or crew members. The story revolves around detective Hercule Poirot as he investigates the murder of a wealthy heiress on board the ship. Another of Christie’s novels with this plot and her famous detective Poirot is “Murder on the Orient Express” which takes place on a train.

What good mystery have you read lately?