How Reading is Declining in America and What to Do About It

How Reading is Declining in America and What to Do About It

I just stumbled upon some statistics which show the decline in American readers. Americans just don't read much anymore. This first chart shows the difference between a Gallup poll done in 1978 and a Pew Research poll from 2014. Readers are divided into four groups, separated by how many books a person read in the last year. You can see that the moderate readers stayed almost the same, while the extremes dipped dramatically.

How Many Books Did Americans Read in the Last Year: 1978 and 2014

So just isolate those extremes and look at them: the big readers (11 or more) fell from 42 to 28%, and the non-readers rose from 8 to 23%. Now, almost a quarter of the population don't read even one book per year.

This can lead to many observations, but the first is that our culture doesn't value knowledge like it used to (even in the 70's!). Difficult reading is in decline, and literary fiction is all-but missing in pop culture. This lack of reading seems to be focused on men, who barely read,  and it's generational.

But reading is required for intelligence, for decision-making, for having an opinion, and for developing a self--knowing who you are and why you do what you do. Democracy itself relies on an educated public, but as we have seen with recent riots and protests, our Democratic government is threatened by ignorant anarchists left and right.

If you find yourself short on time, and just can't fit reading in, start with this excellent article at Farnam Street Blog, and also follow my series on workflow. As you hone your ability to get things done, time will open up for reading--even 15 minutes a day will get you a book a month. That's plenty of material to grow with, and you can get it in the time it takes you to eat breakfast!

If you lack inspiration, read this series from Art of Manliness on the Libraries of Famous Men. It also helps to reason with yourself. List out your reasons why you don't read and see if they are actually viable. Dream big! Read widely.

(Source of statistics)

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