I, of course, find this very depressing

According to an AP article, a recent survey showed that a full 27 percent of adults in America read no books last year. The survey, which sadly is neither unusual nor surprising, contains a variety of interesting results. It’s worth looking at but here’s some of the core findings reported in the news article:

  • “The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn’t read any, the usual number read was seven.”
  • “There was even some political variety evident, with Democrats and liberals typically reading slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives.”
  • “The Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds in the survey, more than all other categories. Popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries were all cited by about half, while one in five read romance novels. Every other genre — including politics, poetry and classical literature — were named by fewer than five percent of readers.”
  • “More women than men read every major category of books except for history and biography.”

While the article focuses on the survey results, it also compares it prior surveys. I am also guessing the guy who is quoted saying, “I just get sleepy when I read” may regret being quoted — but given the poll results, maybe not.

Regardless of which survey you look at, my reading habits and consumption once more mean I am vastly outnumbered. Again, though, it’s a minority of which I’m proud. And for those who wonder how I manage to read as many books as I do: There is something called an “off” button on that mind-numbing device known as a television and the limited quality in that wasteland is easily perused in just a couple weekend hours with a recording device and fast forward button.

Just think of the wonderful impact on our youth and society if even half the hours “reality TV” is on in American households were devoted to reading.

Books are humanity in print.

Barbara Tuchman, The Book

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5 comments to I, of course, find this very depressing

  • Americans’ reading habits are just more evidence of our laziness, which seems to grow boundlessly. We prefer the simple, passive processes of information consumption, and are willing to sacrifice a little bit of imagination for the convenience. Our much-vaunted American obesity isn’t just physical, but it’s apparently intellectual and spiritual, as well. I blogged on this one, too.

  • And I THOUGHT about blogging on it, but you’ve said it all so nicely.

    There aren’t many of us readers left, it seems. Though were there many to begin with?

  • gah. that statistic always saddens me. if you count children’s books, my wife and i read literally dozens of books per month: even though both of our kids can read (despite public education!), they still like being read to. even at 12 and 8, respectively. but i would that the desire for actual, genuine, voluntary interaction with one’s offspring would also be part of the problem with that statistic in the first place, when you think about it.

  • Recent surveys in Malta show the same thing – not many people are reading. It’s a shame really. I’ve also noticed a lot of bookshops are changing their stock and are opting for romance novels and childrens books – since that’s where the market is – which means that if I want a good book I have to either order it or buy it over the internet. Having said that I’m proud of being a bookworm and I’d sooner read a book rather than watch TV.

  • Television is only a part of the problem. Programming (nice word, eh?) is determined by consumption. There is something attractive about nearly mindless entertainment. That which engages us on a competitive level, even (or especially) vicariously, seems to captivate the largest group of humans. Add to this the “brain candy” exposure of video games, and people seem to lose the ability to stay focused on anything but the most descriptive and action-packed prose. It seems like the mind exposed to such stimuli loses some of its ability to fantasize in an undirected fashion.

    Books are not entirely blameless in this decline in reading. Many are banal pot-boilers, and more are overly verbose, having been sold by the pound, I mean, page. I have grown to prefer the exchange of ideas here on line.

    “If I’d had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter” – Cicero