This New Yorker has not read a single book

He reads Internet posts but not books.

He will never be like Amy Poehler who “rubs elbows” with the strange people who exist in other worlds, or Jay-Z who sees in reading a way to “put words to feelings.” You won’t find him with a copy of the Daily News in the subway train or under the covers at 3 a.m. finishing a riveting novel. This Filipino does not read a book or a newspaper.

Yet, this man, whom I shall call “Tony” does not at all feel inadequate.

“I have never read a single book in my life,” said this New Yorker, a rare breed in a city of voracious readers. “I don’t intend to start now.”

Tony has a vibrant lifestyle surrounded by friends, shopping and theater. He is active within the Filipino community and does volunteer work for causes he believes in. He is smart, charming and loves to tell a story. My favorite is how he attempted to end his life as a young man, but the cord came apart because it was a cheap brand from Ikea.

He went to a private boys school in the Philippines. He came to the U.S. after college and settled in New York where he found work as a physical therapist. Like many of us, he is on Facebook and Twitter.

“I never read books even in school…boring,” he said matter-of-factly, not at all meaning to shock. He’s not proud of his confession either. “I survived by reading the Cliff Notes or asking classmates what the lesson is about.”

As for newspapers, he’s what is known as a skimmer: He reads only the headlines as if scooping the frothy foam from a hot latte.

Tony realizes that he lives in a city that has many independent bookstores as well as Barnes & Noble at every major avenue. He has never been to any of them, although he may have found himself at a B&N across from the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue waiting for an appointment.

“I’m not interested,” he said with a shrug.

What if at a swank cocktail party, he finds himself being quizzed about his favorite book? The Bible, said Tony, will be his quick reply. He’s never read it, but he’s watched enough movies and listened to some priests who quote from its pages. “I can always say something coming from the Bible.”

The Bible.

Strange that he would choose the word of God because according to the 2007 National Book Development Board (NBDB) Readership Survey, reading as a Filipino past-time has declined. But among those who read, the Bible was one of the books they spent time with.

In an article, NDBD board member Queena Lee-Chua traced the decline in reading to factors such as availability of other media, such as television and the Internet, and the prohibitive cost of books. “What is the most popular book read by Filipinos? No, it is not Harry Potter, but the Bible,” writes Lee-Chua.

Apparently, the Bible is a favorite by Filipinos who read — and those who don’t. – Cristina DC Pastor

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