I don't believe that non-readers exist.
I might be wrong. There may be a few people in the world who genuinely will not enjoy any piece of literature you put in front of them. They may be put off by every genre, author, subject and style of writing available.
But I doubt it.
I've been thinking about writing a lot lately since signing up for my course. The whole experience has been extremely stimulating. I'm surrounded by people who love the written word but also love the idea of sharing their own story or stories, whatever the subject matter or length. They just want to get it down.
We're all quite well-read from what I have deduced through our conversations, but when I say that I don't mean we've all read a lot of books. I don't mean we've read a lot of 'The Classics' (don't ask me my opinion on dubbing a book 'Classic') or heavy, long winded texts. What I mean is, we are genuinely passionate about what we read and we don't just pay attention to the subject matter - we pay attention to the way in which it was written.
One of the biggest reasons people don't try their hand at something they're genuinely passionate about seems to be because they're afraid that they will fail. Not trying is, in itself, failure and refusing to listen to the little voice inside you which says you have a sonata/novel/painting/architectural design/philosophy/sculpture waiting to get out is cheating yourself out of so much.
But this fear of failure isn't unfounded. It's easy to justify not wanting to try because if people don't love it, then why bother? Or if you give all that time and effort to it but no one will pay for it, what's the point?
All very well and good if you're doing it for money, success or fame. But I don't do it for these reasons and neither do/did some of the greatest minds of our time. We need to create for the simple thrill of creation.
But then there's the other reason so few people will even bother. Because they figure they can't top something that already exists. They hear a piece of music and assume they could never compose anything so stunning. They see a painting and can't imagine creating one equally as delightful. They read a novel written so poetically, they think they can't compete.
There's a simple solution to this problem as well: Stop looking at it as a competition. Bach died in 1750. What a shame it would have been if Mozart, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky didn't bother composing because they felt Bach's genius couldn't be topped. They knew it wasn't about being better than someone else. It was about being the best of themselves.
There is no book in existence which is indisputably loved by everyone who reads it. There never will be. Being called a 'classic' does not instantly mark a book good or worthy of reading. The value of a book can only be found in the reader.
And for that reason I do not believe that non-readers exist. Anyone who doesn't enjoy reading simply hasn't found the right book.
On March 5th, 2011 I am joining 19,999 other individuals in distributing 1,000,000 copies of 25 different titles in creative and clever ways. My book of choice is The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, one of the greatest books I've ever encountered. I have 48 copies to give and not every one of the 48 individuals who receive one from me will love this book. Some of them are even going to hate it. But the point is, that they will have encountered it when they might not have otherwise. And maybe, just maybe, one of those 48 will have always considered themselves a non-reader, until I gave them this book.