Reading isn't cool
In some groups, no, it's not. But then learning's not cool either. It's better to fail than to be seen as a swot. It's considered better, in some circles, to learn something that will advance your career directly than study something for its own sake. This is why marketing courses are more oversubscribed than classics these days.
Reading is now cooler than it has been for ages. The numbers of books sold in the UK has been going up and up in recent years. It's not that just more people are reading, but that existing readers are buying more books (this might have something to do with all the library cutbacks.) Even boys are getting back into reading fiction (thank you J.K Rowling for reminding them what fun it is).
if you're in marketing or retail sales books aren't going to help you all that much.
Well, if you skip past all the business books that are targeted at these people, and all the self-help books about assertiveness and techniques to convince people, you could look at all those where people have insane ideas or amazing scams and convince the world of them (see: The Bible, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, etc). You could read those books that give you an insight into how people think, how people see the world, and then you know better how to sell to them. Useful? Nah. Course not. Oh, but terse says books shouldn't be useful. Terse says that reading is only for entertainment.
They'll still make you read
Oh, the horror, the horror! Forcing words into tiny little minds. Cruel, isn't it?
Many of the so-called classics suck, huh? Have you read them, or are you falling into your own trap of making sweeping statements about things you've not read? Have you read them out of the context of school? have you chosen to read them for pleasure? Have you read them with a little knowledge about the society and systems in which they were written? Have you given yourself up to the storytelling, and the delights of language? Or have you merely said, "Who needs this so-called great writing anyway? I've got this happy trash to read instead." You have over a thousand years of literature to choose from. You have novels and poetry and drama from around the world. Have you read this stuff, or are you sticking to the literary equivalent of Friends.
There is no master list of Great Books. Is a classic considered that because of its age or its greatness? Of course, some of them are no great shakes. They are revered just because they are old, not because they are wonderful. Adore them or dismiss them after you've read them, not on the basis of their standing, or otherwise you too are making judgements on what you've not read.
I can't believe that it's cooler, anywhere, to pretend to have read a book and pretend to have loved it, than actually read the book and like it. And saying you didn't like something that is widely regarded as good, having an original opinion and being able to back it up with reasoned argument is not heresy. It's called debate.
Books will not make you good. Nazis liked books.
They also recognised their power: they burned them by the bonfire load. But this is a weak argument. It's on the level of "Hitler was a vegetarian. So don't tell me that vegetarianism has any merit." Perhaps people who have read widely and well are more cultured than those who never pick up anything other the TV guide. Doesn't mean they are nicer people, just means they have had a greater exposure to culture.
It's not just for entertainment and escapism. It is for learning and enlightenment too. It's for broadening one's horizons and getting glimpses into worlds and lives that we never visit outside the printed world. It's for elucidation and education. Its for the communication of any human idea that can be expressed in words. And it's for pure enjoyment and delight.
And yes, I read. I read constantly. I read on the bus, in bed, brushing my teeth, walking down the road. I read when I eat my sandwiches. I read when I was the dishes. And I will read almost anything. But I am book snob. I admit it. I don't read any paperback with gold blocked letters on it. Nope.