The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn't cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.
If you are the sort of person who believes that TV and the Internet have turned American culture into a post-literate scrubland full of cat GIFs and reality TV spinoffs, then this news will probably reinforce your worst suspicions. But buried beneath it, I think there's an optimistic story to tell about American book culture. It's about the kids.
Without question, the American bookworm is a rarer species than two or three decades ago, when we didn't enjoy today's abundance of highly distracting gadgets. In 1978, Gallup found that 42 percent of adults had read 11 books or more in the past year (13 percent said they'd read more than 50!). Today, Pew finds that just 28 percent hit the 11 mark.
But here's why I wouldn't proclaim the death of the book quite yet (aside from the fact that the vast majority of the country does still read them).