It seems more people are reading books now than ever before…
This is some surprisingly good news from Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic. I encourage you to click the link and read the full article.
My bet is this is due to e-readers, like the Amazon Kindle. I’ve always read a lot, but the Kindle has put me into overdrive due to the ease of carrying it around and the ability to instantly obtain new books related to one you have just finished.
My guilty pleasure is mysteries set in various time periods in England, but I also read a lot of history, biographies and popular/literary fiction. I go right from one book to another on my Kindle.
Of course, this doesn’t mention the quality of what people are reading, only the quantity….
Remember the good old days when everyone read really good books, like, maybe in the post-war years when everyone appreciated a good use of the semi-colon? Everyone’s favorite book was by Faulkner or Woolf or Roth. We were a civilized civilization. This was before the Internet and cable television, and so people had these, like, wholly different desires and attention spans. They just craved, craved, craved the erudition and cultivation of our literary kings and queens.
Well, that time never existed. Check out these stats from Gallup surveys. In 1957, not even a quarter of Americans were reading a book or novel. By 2005, that number had shot up to 47 percent. I couldn’t find a more recent number, but I think it’s fair to say that reading probably hasn’t declined to the horrific levels of the 1950s.
All this to say: our collective memory of past is astoundingly inaccurate. Not only has the number of people reading not declined precipitously, it’s actually gone up since the perceived golden age of American letters.