Americans Have Either Stopped Reading Books or Stopped Lying About It

From the Atlantic:

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.

8% to 23%! But there’s also this: “52 percent of 18-24 year-olds had read a book outside of work or school, the same as in the pre-Facebook days of 2002.”

As you would expect them to, the non-reader numbers sort meaningfully by education and income level; everything about being privileged makes it easier to read. My guess is that the decline in reading among the highly educated has at least something to do with what James Surowiecki in this week’s New Yorker calls “the cult of overwork”:

Thirty years ago, the best-paid workers in the U.S. were much less likely to work long days than low-paid workers were. By 2006, the best paid were twice as likely to work long hours as the poorly paid, and the trend seems to be accelerating. A 2008 Harvard Business School survey of a thousand professionals found that ninety-four per cent worked fifty hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of sixty-five hours a week. Overwork has become a credential of prosperity.

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