Some sad news: Americans are reading fewer books. At least that’s the report from the Gallup gang, which surveyed American adults in December 2021 and learned that we all individually read “about two or three fewer books a year” than we did in 2001-2016.
I admit I was surprised, because I had the impression that we had all rediscovered the pleasures of print during the pandemic – which, in addition to painting self-portraits, baking succulent sourdoughs, mastering shooting archery and rewatching every season of “Barney Miller,” we found time to curl up on the couch by the fire and dig into “Ulysses.”
At least I thought you were reading “Ulysses.” I was doing other stuff.
I’m not alone. Overall, the average number of books read per adult per year fell to 12.6 from 15.2 in 2016, according to Gallup. All categories of readers read less: men, women, university graduates, non-graduates, old and young people, as well as middle-aged morons with alleged humor columns in fine financial newspapers .
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What is your strategy for reading more books? Join the conversation below.
My friends, we have work to do. It’s hard to look at what’s going on in the world around us and think that as a people we should read less.
(If you’re one of those people who skim through three books a week, congratulations and thank you for raising the national average. Now read six a week. You can do it.)
I will be the first to say it: I have to step up. I don’t read as many books as I should. I’m embarrassed, especially as someone who’s written a book and usually begs people to read his chicken scratches. I read to my kids every night, but I don’t know if reading to your kids counts. Someone asks Gallup: Does it count as a book if it’s about 12 pages about an anxious dinosaur who really wants to open a bakery?
Of course, it’s not as easy to read a book as it used to be. Once upon a time, the only human hobbies were A) reading books and B) looking up at the sky and wondering if a cloud looked like a cow or a duck. Now there are too many distractions. That’s why I’ve put together a guide on how to read more in 2022.
• Get a book. I know it sounds obvious, but it’s an essential part of the process. Make sure it’s a real book. That manual in the junk drawer of the clock radio you threw away in 1993: not a book.
• Accept that the book you read will not be the book on your bedside table. Every person has a book next to their bed that they haven’t deciphered since George Bush the Elder came to power. This book is bookmarked on page 21 with a receipt from Borders.
• Get a “reading chair”. Find a chair in your house, or buy a new one, that will serve as your home reading haven. It’s important that this chair is comfortable, but not too comfortable, because you want to be able to stay alert while reading. Find it? Great. Now go sit on the chair, open the book… and fall asleep immediately.
• Bury your phone. Needless to say. Phones are the worst creative diversion on the planet; if we didn’t have them, we would all have Grammys and Nobels by now. I know you can technically read a book on your phone, but nobody ever has. It’s a lie.
• Stop reading this. You might be glued to Melville right now, and instead you’re still staring at that stupid paragraph. More likely, you’re a sound sleeper in your reading chair. Please wake up. I have this dynamite book about an anxious dinosaur who really wants to open a bakery.
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