Skip to comments.One in four read no books last year
Posted on 08/21/2007 2:24:45 PM PDT by Nachum
There it sits on your night stand, that book you've meant to read for who knows how long but haven't yet cracked open. Tonight, as you feel its stare from beneath that teetering pile of magazines, know one thing you are not alone.
One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those who did read, women and seniors were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.
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.
"I just get sleepy when I read," said Richard Bustos of Dallas, a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify. Bustos, a 34-year-old project manager for a telecommunications company, said he had not read any books in the last year and would rather spend time in his backyard pool.
That choice by Bustos and others is reflected in book sales, which have been flat in recent years and are expected to stay that way indefinitely. Analysts attribute the listlessness to competition from the Internet and other media, the unsteady economy and a well-established industry with limited opportunities for expansion.
When the Gallup poll asked in 2005 how many books people had at least started a similar but not directly comparable question the typical answer was five. That was down from 10 in 1999, but close to the 1990 response of six.
In 2004, a National Endowment for the Arts report titled "Reading at Risk" found only 57 percent of American adults had read a book in 2002, a four percentage point drop in a decade. The study faulted television, movies and the Internet.
Who are the 27 percent of people the AP-Ipsos poll found hadn't read a single book this year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious.
At the same time, book enthusiasts abound. Many in the survey reported reading dozens of books and said they couldn't do without them.
"I go into another world when I read," said Charlotte Fuller, 64, a retired nurse from Seminole, Fla., who said she read 70 books in the last year. "I read so many sometimes I get the stories mixed up."
Among those who said they had read books, the median figure with half reading more, half fewer was nine books for women and five for men. The figures also indicated that those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and up read more than those who are younger.
Pollyann Baird, 84, a retired school librarian in Loveland, Colo., says J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series is her favorite. But she has forced herself to not read the latest and final installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," because she has yet to file her income taxes this year due to an illness and worries that once she started the book, "I know I'd have to finish it."
People from the South read a bit more than those from other regions, mostly religious books and romance novels. Whites read more than blacks and Hispanics, and those who said they never attend religious services read nearly twice as many as those who attend frequently.
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. Industry experts said that confirms their observation that men tend to prefer nonfiction.
"Fiction just doesn't interest me," said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Ala. "If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie."
Those likeliest to read religious books included older and married women, lower earners, minorities, lesser educated people, Southerners, rural residents, Republicans and conservatives.
The publishing business totaled $35.7 billion in global sales last year, 3 percent more than the previous year, according to the Book Industry Study Group, a trade association. About 3.1 billion books were sold, an increase of less than 1 percent.
The AP-Ipsos poll was conducted from August 6 to 8 and involved telephone interviews with 1,003 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Four books would be a slow two weeks for me.
It seems amazing, but I do sometimes cross paths with people who don’t read.
| Didn't Kelly say,
"Books? Who reads books? Anything
that you need to learn
a person can learn
from a movie or a date."
Could Kelly be wrong?!
I read “Godless” this year. “Slander” and “Treason” last year. How ‘bout that!
It’s going to get worse. My daughter was in a ballet program for five weeks this summer. She was the only reader in her “suite.” The rest of the girls (13-14) hated reading. When she got her copy of Harry Potter, the girls all thought she was a child prodigy because she finished her book within 24 hours of getting it. And she did attend class that day! One had an assignment to read 1000 pages, and moaned about it. And they all had no interest in LOTR, and one had only seen the movies of Harry, and had never read the books!
The next generation will not have a majority of readers.
Doesnt surprise me...people are stoopider now more than ever.
I give 50 books away each year.
What did this article say? Can someone summarize in a couple words? I think I’ll wait for the movie.
I completed the six volume set of Winston Churchills “The Second World War”
they were a tough read but well worth it
took me almost a year to accomplish. i then read two more books in short order so i guess i am ahead of the curve
My daughters love to read as well. I can’t tell you how many other parents make fun of me because me and my two youngest crawl into bed my early every night and read stories together before they go to sleep. They also laugh at me because I read pretty much every book I buy for my teenage daughter. Well, they can laugh all they want, because she and I have nightly conversations about books, and they always lead to insights into her life and her thinking. These same parents are the ones who complain that their children never seem to have any reason to speak to them. Thanks to books, I always have conversation starters for mine. I hope your daughter continues in her love for reading. When she gets a little older, try the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers. I thorougly enjoyed reading those books after my 17 year old finished them. Vampires and Werewolves, but not your typical storyline about them.
ill take a dozen!
I’ve read all those. I think my daughter, the Ann Coulter wannabe, has read them several times, along with the Complete Works of P.J. O’Rourke.
That's what my boss says. And I also have known folks who say, "I'm done with school. Why would I want to read if I don't have to?"
Personally, I can't understand either sentiment. I always have at least one book that I'm currently reading - both fiction and nonfiction. I wouldn't know how to function any other way.
I agree - except for “Lord of the Rings”: the characters, orcs included, were EXACTLY as I pictured them in my head!
BTW, thanks for your family’s service.
The only books I read last year were a 1911 shop manual and a 1911A1 shop manual.
We had our eye on a nice young man at church as a potential match for our daughter ... cute, smart, excellent grades, Eagle Scout, religious, likes girls with blue hair ... but then we found out he doesn’t read!
Sad to say, books are now a luxury item.
My daughter (17) took “How to Talk to A Liberal” to her liberal, artsy high school just so she could read it and drive her lib teachers and classmates crazy at the same time. I’m so proud!
Had to write him off completely.
Hey Xena, long time!
It would be a MASSIVELY slow week for me. Especially now that I have found the wonders of eBooks and the instant gratification of downloading them..now. Right now. Now, now, now.
I love to read. I was on a sci-fi kick this last weekend. David Weber and his stuff.
Why should I read Herodotus when I can see the movie “300” instead?
Here’s the excuse needed to make even more Harry Potter books!
I only read one boom last year and I may not read one this year. Who has time to read? I get all the information I need from Free Republic :)
“One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year”
I think that most people lie a lot. I’d be surprised if one in four average Americans read a book last year, if you exclude comic books.
I read about 100 books a year, but then, I’m a stay at home mom, a quick reader (100 pages+ an hour) and I don’t watch telly. My husband likes to read, but his brain gets so overworked at his job, he deserves the downtime he gets in front of the t.v. He reads on his vacation, or on the plane when he’s on business trips. This puts him firmly in the 4 books a year category, not counting the thousands of pages of documents he reads (and writes) for his work.
Literacy is not dead. It’s just exhausted.
I blame the parents. We sat down at the start of summer vacation with our 9 y/o daughter and 7 y/o son. She had a goal to read 25 books during summer vacation. His goal was 10 books. I'm not talking Cat-in-the-Hat either. I'm talking real books...Black Beauty, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. She hit her goal with two weeks to spare. He hit his goal with three days to spare. He doesn't particularly care to read...would rather play video games and watch TV, but that doesn't fly in this house. Our little girl is already a book worm.
Girls with blue hair? Do you read fantasy or science fiction?
The Dark is Rising series is a pretty good series (Susan Cooper)
My husband likes to read, but his brain gets so overworked at his job, he deserves the downtime he gets in front of the t.v.
There was a time in the not so distant past when books were considered “downtime.”
I much prefer real books for when I’m not at work...but gutenberg.org has gotten me through many, many slow days at work over the years...I can even hide behind my monitor and pretend I’m being productive, which doesn’t work with a real book. ;-)
Instant access to pretty much all the classics, and tons of other stuff besides is tres nifty.
Books aren’t a luxury item. Maybe new hardbacks are a luxury item but anybody that actually gets books to read knows how to get them cheap. Friends of the library, walk out with two full tote bags and change for your 20.
“It seems amazing, but I do sometimes cross paths with people who dont read.”
So do I; and then there’s the people who express surprise that I actually walk for 25 minutes to work
I disagree. The pendulum swings both ways. The TV generation is aging rapidly and will soon enter our nursing homes.
The appreciation for books will return, once the novelty of technology wears off. (or, perhaps, in conjunction with new technology!)
One of the performers in my group - I think she’s 15 - lent me “Twilight” last weekend. Sounds as though I’ll like it!
I have a weakness for the library book sale dollar bag days. And Half Price Books is like a crack house. But if pulpy SF is your passion, you have to seek out the dingiest, out-of-the-way paperback exchange you can find. You will not be disappointed by the treasures found therein.
But I’ll bet those same folks watched four television show is a night........rme
You can check books out for free at a library.
Having the time to invest in a book is considered a luxury in the same way that having time to go to the gym is considered a luxury.
I will have to write that one down. Right now she is reading Terry Pratchett, Guards, Guards, I think. Her Uncle highly recommended them, and he also is a big reader and loves the fact that she is too.
I too love the aspect of reading and then discussing a book with her. It is does allow for more bonding, specially as they get older.
History, historical fiction, technical, occasional sci-fi/fantasy, the odd classic for it’s own sake, here and there. I have less time than I used to to devote to it, but I still call myself a voracious reader.
I usually have several books going at one time. I cannot understand why people don’t read more. I developed the habit when I was a youngster, going through some difficult circumstances. It was my bound, rectangular ‘escape hatch’.
That would not do!!! Keep looking!!
I’m a total sucker at library book sales, when it’s 50 cent paperback time I’ll grab anything, if I think there’s even the slightest possibility of me actually wanting to read the book at some point before I die it’s in the bag. Because heck it’s 50 cents, two books for the price of a vending machine soda hard to feel like you’re wasting money. Thrift shops are great too, never really know what you’ll find but it’ll be dirt cheap, along with dirt cheap music. I often find it hard to excuse buying entertainment products new.
The library bag sales are also the way I find bunches of old mysteries from the forties and fifties...my personal weakness when it comes to quick and easy reading. But really, but the time they get to the “stuff a bag” stage, I’ll take any genre, any style, anything I might possibly read - it’s a good way to find new authors. Even if some of the books end up being unreadable or just plain silly, it’s a lot cheaper and less risky than renting campy movies with the hope that they’ll be bad in a good way. ;-)
Oh please neither is even close to a luxury. Real readers know this well, as we all bring books to the bathroom. Sure you might not have the time to sit down comfortably for a couple hours of pure read time, but there is ALWAYS time to read, even if it is just while you make #2. And as for the gym, half an hour a couple times a week just ain’t that tough, and of course you don’t even have to go to the gym for exercise. People calling things like that luxuries are just excuse mongering laziness and illiteracy.
Yeah, it is amazing what a little bit of encouragement will do. Once my daughter took off reading Nancy Drew after getting her feet wet with the Boxcar Children, it was off she went. The only book that she has complained about was Moby Dick. If that is the only one so far, I must be doing something right. They can learn so much from books, it is really a treasure to one’s soul to see the children reading.