Animal’s Daily Marginal Literacy News

Now here’s a hell of a thing; one in five Americans, according to Pew Research, have not read a book in the past year.  And it gets worse!  Excerpt:

Last fall, Pew Research found that 27 percent of Americans had not read a book in the preceding year.

Unfortunately, our friends across the pond aren’t much better in this respect. According to a 2014 survey, roughly 26 percent of adults in Great Britain admitted to not reading and finishing a book for pleasure.

One might be able to dismiss such statistics to busyness or other similar factors. But is it possible that the growing numbers of the non-reading public are instead a sign of the decline of knowledge about books and the canon of literature in general? A March 2017 survey suggests such might be the case. Produced by The Royal Society of Literature, the survey asked nearly 2,000 British adults about their literature reading habits. Similar to the aforementioned 2014 survey, roughly 1 in 4 British adults had not read a piece of literature in the previous six months.

But even more interesting were the responses when researchers asked respondents to name an author of a literary work. As it turns out, 20 percent of respondents were unable to name even one. Of those who were able to name an author, more than half selected a modern, living author, such as J.K. Rowling.

Writers tend to be avid readers, and yr. obdt. certainly fits that stereotype.  (I’m currently on my ninth or tenth read-through of Asimov’s Foundation series.)  I can’t for the life of me imagine a life so intellectually impoverished as a life without books.

That must be a really good book.

Writing is, after all, probably the greatest innovation of civilized man.  It is the means by which we pass knowledge on down spans of generations.  It is through writing that Aristotle, Cicero, Mill, Hamilton and Jefferson speak to us over the centuries.  Books take us to distant times, to imagined futures, to far-away places, to other dimensions.

How, then, has it come to this, where so many people are without the joy of reading?

  • Daniel Nathaniel

    For the same reason memes and emojis are being discussed as legitimate linguistic innovations. Why do you need a good book when you have device which can entertain you is so many different ways?

  • allen

    two months ago, I re-read the entire “barsoom/john carter of mars” series. all 13 books. just on my lunch breaks at work. part of the problem these days is every good or popular book gets turned into movie in a few years. so people think they can just watch the movie and get the same experience.

    I think part of the problem is in school they over-analyze books. suddenly the color and design of the wallpaper on page 42 has a certain meaning, and there is a right and wrong answer and it WILL be on the test. it sucks all the joy out of reading when you have to focus on and memorize all the useless details rather than the story itself..

    • I love the Barsoom books, even though we know now how impossible they are.

      Agree with your second paragraph, although I think the “immediate gratification” culture brought on my 34/7 connectivity is partly to blame as well.