There was an astonishing debate running last week. It was initiated by Ruth Rendell who told the BBC Radio Four Front Row audience that she believes reading is now 'a specialist activity'.
I heard about this when a researcher from BBC Radio Suffolk called me at 8.30 in the morning asking me to debate the point on their programme 40 minutes later.
The researcher was unable to tell me the context of Rendell's argument. Ultimately it didn't matter because the presenter didn't want to talk about it at all when I went on air. You can hear what we did discuss here.
However, yesterday in the Guardian, Philip Hensher agreed with Rendell in his opinion piece. He pointed out that, while we should be in a golden age for reading, with books being so accessible in so many formats and for such a small fee, in fact it is not the case.
Hensher argues that 'we all pay lip service to the importance of reading, but no public body seems very interested in serving it'. Just as we are told it is good for us to eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, so, he insists, the government should recommend we each read 15 books a year.
Really? More people are reading more books than ever before, and they are discussing and sharing what they are reading more than ever before...aren't they? Look at people travelling on trains and planes; look where books are being sold; look at the reviews and interviews in any magazine or newspaper; the adaptations for film, tv, theatre; the literature festivals in every town; the book clubs for any interest or community; the awards and their subsequent sales.
Undoubtedly some people won't be reading, but hasn't that always been the case? If we want to kill a love of reading then we should urge the government to tell people it's good for them. Now, closing libraries, that's another issue entirely....