Why Aren’t More People Reading?

This month has been a flurry of celebrations–lots of birthdays (including my own!), a surprise engagement between two close friends of mine, and my company’s move into our new office in San Francisco. Last night was also the mid-season finale of Outlander, my latest TV obsession, so all in all, September has been a blast!

Now that fall is officially here, I’m taking some time catching up on literary news. Earlier this month, my favorite feminist blog Jezebel discussed a recent Facebook poll on the books that have stayed with us.

The results found that the most influential books are predominantly ones that people read during their childhood or teenage years, which begs the question: does anyone actually read past high school?

I’m not saying that books like “Harry Potter” and “A Wrinkle in Time” aren’t excellent or can’t be influential. Many of these novels mean so much precisely because we read them during our most formative years.

But honestly, most of the books listed in these Facebook responses have film or television adaptations, so I bet a good chunk of folks only read the books after watching the stories on-screen.

Jezebel says it like it is: most people just don’t read much once they reach adulthood. Whether they’re too busy or too lazy, it’s a really sad fact. They cite a Pew report, which found that 23% of people did not read a single book in 2013.

The Pew results also demonstrated that reading increases as education and income increases. It’s not that going to college and making more money gets you to read more. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have an advanced degree and make a good living because I value reading.

Unless you’re a professional gamer or TV critic, nobody becomes successful glued to a screen. Another study showed that over 20% of Americans earning less than $40,000 annually watch over five hours of TV a day. On the other hand, almost half of those earning over $150,000 watch less than one hour a day. I can guarantee you that wealthy Americans are spending more time doing productive activities, and that includes reading.

As for me, I read about 20 books every year and watch probably an hour of TV a day, sometimes more, most often less. I also take advantage of my long commute, preferring to listen to podcasts and audiobooks than playing games on my iPhone.

I truly believe that people who do not make reading a priority in their lives are missing out on opportunities to reach their true potential and achieve great levels of success. Reading (especially fiction) stimulates our minds, challenges our preconceived notions, and broadens our horizons. It makes us more knowledgeable about the world and more empathetic to others. It encourages critical thinking and boosts intelligence. All around, it makes us better people.

Odds are, if you’re reading my book blog, you already love reading, but if you know someone who hasn’t read a single book in quite some time, then share this article. I hope that I can inspire more people to put down the remote and pick up a book…not just for their sakes, but for the world’s.

8 thoughts on “Why Aren’t More People Reading?

  1. absolute fantabulous article!
    In such an era that information technology develops so rapidly, people can get easily themselves lost in the electronic world.Plus it’s far more simple for one to pick up a bag of chips and press the button on the remote control than clam down and open a book while get their brain ready for the knowledge they are about to meet.
    well, in one word, your article is powerfully useful to me, and I believe it does can make a difference to me!

  2. I agree that people need to value reading more, but I also think that even for big readers some of the most impressionable books are from our childhoods and teenage years. I really like the statistics and data you lay out here though.

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