Saturday, November 26, 2016


The Pew Research Center has some dispiriting news for those concerned about the future of the American republic:
About a quarter of American adults (26%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form.

Several demographic traits correlate with non-book reading, Pew Research Center surveys have found. For instance, adults with a high school degree or less are about three times as likely as college graduates (40% vs. 13%) to report not reading books in any format in the past year. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey shows that these less-educated adults are also the least likely to own smartphones or tablets, two devices that have seen a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books since 2011. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

Adults with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are about twice as likely as the most affluent adults to be non-book readers (33% vs. 17%). Hispanic adults are also about twice as likely as whites (40% vs. 23%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months.

Older Americans are a bit more likely than their younger counterparts not to have read a book. Some 29% of adults ages 50 and older have not read a book in the past year, compared with 23% of adults under 50. In addition, men are less likely than women to have read a book, as are adults in rural areas compared with those in urban areas.
I know people are busy, but it's disappointing to learn that one in four Americans hasn't had the time or inclination to read at least one book in the past year, especially when one factors in the suspicion that those who report that they have read a book have read something like Fifty Shades of Gray.

In any case, permit me a suggestion. The New Year is just a bit over a month away. One marvelous resolution we could all make would be to read at least six books in the coming year or, even better, to join a monthly book club. The mind is a wonderful gift, and reading and talking about what one has read is a great way to keep it strong and fit.

Thomas Jefferson once said that "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ..., it expects what never was and never will be. If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed."

A healthy nation requires that its citizens be people enthusiastic to learn and committed to the life-long project of cultivating their minds. Books are a great way, perhaps the best way, to accomplish that.