28 August 2007

I guess I'm a statistic

According to an Associated Press poll, one in four Americans did not read a single book in the past year. When I was in my teens and early 20s, I would have looked askance at anyone who told me that they didn't read. Early on in my marriage, I tried all sorts of tricks to get my husband to read. Even as recently as last week, I was surprised when I heard a woman say that she doesn't like to read (I'm accustomed to hearing that from men and kids, but not women). Nowadays, I have to admit that I count myself among them.

A study done in 2004 by the National Endowment for the Arts faulted TV, movies, and the internet for our decline in reading. Those who have known me for years may assume that TV is the cause in my case, but they would be incorrect. I watched so much TV in my youth that for a while my family considered me a walking TV Guide, yet I still read lots of books. We didn't have cable or satellite TV when I was a kid, and Tivo hadn't been invented yet. Believe it or not, I got a lot of reading done during commercial breaks :-). I'm old enough to remember the days when there was nothing worth watching on the weekends until 8p. Back then, it was easier to be a reader and a TV junkie at the same time.

My personal decline in reading fiction started when I got my first computer in 1988. All the time I previously devoted to books was channeled into playing text adventures. Later, text adventures gave way to games like Sim City and ultimately, the internet. These days, it is difficult to pry myself away from my computer. I'm going on vacation next month and the idea of a whole week without a computer doesn't appeal to me at all!

I noticed that nonfiction seem to be missing from these surveys. When they asked the people who do read what they were reading, different genres of fiction were mentioned but no nonfiction. Someone must be reading nonfiction, though; there is a whole bestsellers list for it.
I know that I read how-to and advice books more than novels these days. I also read a lot of blogs and other content online. Doesn't all reading count the same?

1 comment:

Des said...

I understand about getting out of the habit of reading books - I too spend a lot of time online. A while ago I was given a book voucher as a present and when I walked into the bookstore I noticed Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, which I'd always thought was one of those books I "should" read, but was deterred from doing so because I could not see the fun in reading about a guy in a tuberculosis sanatorium! But the books price just 95cents more than the voucher was worth, so I bought it and am reading it - slowly, usually late at night. I'm savoring the masterfulness of it, as prose, as social and natural observation, as psychology. Deep down, books r I.