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Yann Martel is the author of The High Mountains of Portugal and Life of Pi, the #1 international bestseller and winner of the 2002 Man Booker (among many other prizes). He is also[…]

What can be done to make boys and young men more interested in reading books?

Question:  How would you encourage boys and young men to read?

Yannrn Martel:  It’s a tough sell, because it goes beyond, there seems to rnbe, and maybe it’s cross-cultural, maybe there’s something genetic, I rndon’t know.  But you’re right, there seems to be a resistance in young rnmales to reading, so maybe it’s a question of finding the right book.  rnMaybe the way to pass on the word, maybe they’d like, you know, oral rnwords, maybe they’re more susceptible to plays, maybe.  I’m not sure, rnit’s a question of education, it’s a question of having their elders, rnolder males read.  I’ve noticed that in reading males, young males read,rn old males read, it’s the middle ones.  And of course, the problem is, rnis we are dominated by the middle ones, we’re dominated by middle-aged rnmen.  Historically, they are the ones who have been the rulers and the, rnthere have been, they are the ones who have the most power.  So we rnsomehow seem to miss them.  I’m not sure, I think it’s a question of rneducation, it’s a question of setting by example, it’s a question of rnfinding the right books.  I’m not sure.

Question: How rndo you feel about electronic reading devices?

Yann rnMartel:  I think it’s a great idea, I have no fear of it, I think rnit’ll save some trees and there’s infinite, it has infinite rnpossibilities.  So to have an electronic book where, if you don’t know arn word, you tap on it and it’s defined for you, to have a device where, rnyou know, you can append an encyclopedia so if you’re reading a novel rnset in Paraguay and you’re curious about Paraguay, you can tap and get arn map of Paraguay. And to have a book that perhaps at one point, you rnknow, you’re reading an Indian novel, why not have Indian music in the rnbackground, to have a book that can then start reading to you, you rnknow?  It’s a great idea.  It’s particularly suited for stuff that’s rnephemeral, newspapers, ephemeral fiction.  And if you really like a rnwork, if you’re reading great poetry, then you have it on your Kindle, rnbut also you get it as a book.  So I think they can be complimentary.

Yourn know, every new technology has its limitations, has its dangers.  The rndanger of the e-book of course is that it’ll be kidnapped by rncorporations, whether it’s Apple or Sony or whatever, you know... rnbecause it is a proprietary, e-books right now are proprietary rntechnology, whereas books, books aren’t, paper books are not, anyone canrn make a book.  So, hopefully at one point it will be a generic product, rnlike the phone is, like an actual physical phone is.  Anyone can make a rnphone now, any number of companies.

But as an idea, I think it’s rnwonderful.  It still needs work, but I have no, I have no fear of them. rn I don’t have one myself, but I have no problems with them.
rnRecorded April 13, 2010