I don’t think there’s anything to say about this story from Yahoo! News other than to suggest that it’s not good news for the future of the country:
"One in four adults say that 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."
Not that there is anything wrong with "religious works", usually meaning the Bible in one form or another, or popular fiction per se (I admit to a guilty pleasure for Jeffrey Archer novels.) And I suppose something like the Left Behind books would qualify as both categories in one if you consider them religious works. (Surely they’re pop fiction.)
What worries me about news stories like this is not the normal "How could so many people read those kinds of books?" that you hear from the crowd that reads, say the NY Times religiously. Referring to the above mentioned materials with the word "those"–which is always spoken with a tone of extreme derision and disgust in such circles–denotes an episode of literary snobbery. The sort of person who would speak such a line without really thinking and with a straight face would rather die than voluntarily read a western, or a detective novel or one of those Left Behind books, or even admit they looked at the covers as they walked past the rows in the local Barnes & Nobel. Which is a shame because there are well written westerns and detective books out there. And, say what you like about fire and brimstone revenge fantasies like the Left Behind books but at the end of the day, boy they were fun to read (I got what I could from the library and bought the rest from used book dealers.)
What I’m referring to is the assertion that in a country of 300 million souls–out of roughly 200 million adults– 50 million did not read a single book for an entire year. 50 million otherwise decent Americans decided to do literally anything but read for an entire year. I’m stumped as to how that could be. Actually, I’m not stumped because I can imagine the life of someone who’s not a complete and utter reading freak–reading is time consuming, it’s not always easy especially if you’re not used to reading for fun, and a book can easily demand as much devotion as a mistress without providing the obvious benefits of one. Reading is tough! Worse, if you read you can’t be social. Reading is by definition a solitary activity. You have to enjoy being alone with a book a lot of the time.
The good news is (of course) that if one adult in four did not read even a single bo0ok last year, then three out of four did. And that, friends and neighbors, is reason to celebrate.