It's a sobering thing to see that one in four adults read no books last year. The idea of going a month – hell, a week – without reading is completely alien to me.
Unless I'm reading it wrong, or the article doesn't mention it, this poll takes into account only literate adults, which means that it's not people who can't read that aren't reading; it's people who just don't care to. The idea of it boggles me. I've always surrounded myself with people who like to read. Every time there's a gathering of my friends or family, there will at some point in the evening be a book discussion - what I'm reading, what they're reading, what we liked or disliked about certain books. It's not uncommon for those of us in the middle of a series to sneak off into another room and discuss theories about upcoming books.
But then there are statements like this one: "Richard Bustos of Dallas, Texas...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."
Uh, why not read while you're poolside? The two activities aren't mutually exclusive.
And this one: "'Fiction just doesn't interest me,' said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Alabama. 'If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie.'"
Pardon me, what?
Now, I understand there are people who prefer non-fiction to fiction, just as there are people who prefer, say, Westerns to mysteries. Maybe Ryan is one of them. Although, most of the time, movies lose something in the translation from page to screen. Even Stardust, which I thought was wonderfully done, is less than the experience of the graphic novel.
Reading is more active than watching a movie. You have to do some work - letting the author lead you around while he or she reveals the story, imagining the characters and settings, hearing their voices. But done right, when a writer transports the reader, it's ten times better than anything on the screen. A hundred times.
The average person read four books last year. Or, excluding the ones whose total was zero, the average number is seven. How much of this can be attributed to there being more and more demands on peoples' time? More responsibilities at work, kids' extra-curricular activities, shiny new technology, things like that? Is there a measurable number of people who once spent their lunch hours reading and now poke through blogs instead? How about the amount of people who work through lunch because their jobs demand it?
Here are the rest of the AP-Ipsos Poll results for the curious - I don't think I can link directly to the PDF file, but it's easy to find. Go take a peek.
There will always be readers. So many people aspire to be writers, and part of what sparks that desire, more often than not, is their own love of reading. Bookstores aren't going to go away, publishers aren't going to shut down their presses. Maybe as the kids who grew up with Harry Potter achieve the august title of Adult, the next poll will show an increase in these disheartening numbers.
So, informal poll here, for the hell of it - how many have you read in the last year? Do you think you read more or less than you used to? What's changed?