According to recent newspaper articles about an Associated Press poll, one in four adults said they'd read no books at all in the last year. Of course that's a bit shocking to me, but not really surprising. Even I, an avid lifetime reader, have read fewer books than usual during the last year, although I'd probably come out quite well in the statistics. I'm not sure how many I've read, but I definitely have not met my goal of reading a book every week or so. What's going on?
For me, it's writing and the Internet. I seem to be busy all the time, and I don't even have a "real" job. Only one young non-reader was quoted in the article I read, and he said that he just gets sleepy when he reads, and would rather spend time in his back-yard pool. On the other hand, the one older reader quoted said that she can't do without books. She "goes into another world" when she reads, and said that she read seventy books in the past year. I agree with her, and applaud her reading, no matter what she read (the article does not spedify what she read, but does report that the Bible, religious works, popular fiction, histories, biographies, and mysteries lead the pack, followed by romance novels and then everything else).
A few other reading statistics are interesting:
People from the West and Midwest are more likely to have read at least one book in the past year.
Southerners who read tend to read more books than people from other regions
Those who never attend religious services read nearly twice as many books as those who attend frequently.
Democrats and liberals typically read slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives.
The non-readers tend to be "older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious."
Among the readers, those with college degrees read the most, and people age 50 and up read more than those who are younger (I belong to those groups, so I'm happy to see these statistics).
What conclusions can we draw from all of this? I don't really know. You'll note that we older folk are included in both the non-readers and the readers (see the two points just above). As with most groups of statistics, it's hard to make any generalizations about the results of this Associated Press poll.
What does seem clear, at least to me, is that the popularity of reading is declining, and that many independent bookstores and small traditional publishers are closing up shop. Still, I see a self-expression trend as self-publishing and POD (print-on-demand) publishing gain popularity.
Read the classics and the best sellers, of course, but also give a chance to unknown authors. Check out the link on this blog to Infinity Authors--Infinite Talent to meet some enthusiastic authors of both non-fiction and fiction. I've found many of their books worth reading.
If you haven't read a book in a while, give it a try. Too poor or frugal to buy books? Go to your local library. You'll miss most of the Infinity author's books, but you'll learn the joys of reading. A portable, non-electronic book is still one of the world's pleasures--at least for me!
Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne
Source, Alan Fram, Associated Press: "Poll: Many Americans close the book on reading." Chicago Tribune, Aug. 22, 2007.
Illustration: Detail from a painting by Robert Gaudreau, http://www.robertgaudreau.com/preview/page22.html