Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Those who don't read have no advantage over those who can't.
~ Mark Twain

And apparently there are many who don't.

According to a recent Associated Press poll , 27% of Americans don't read even one book a year. Not one! Women and seniors were the groups who read the most; religious works and popular fiction were the top choices. The typical number of books read last year was four; half the respondents read more and half read fewer. After excluding the quarter of the population who hadn't read even one book, the usual number of books read a year was seven. Seven! I can't imagine. it. Thomas Jefferson couldn't live without books. I couldn't either.

One common excuse used is a lack of time and this reminded me of that Twilight Zone episode entitled "Time Enough At Last". A man who works in a bank and loves to read but can't find enough time to read as much as he'd like, is reading while eating his lunch in the bank vault. Nuclear war breaks out and he discovers that he is the last man on earth. There is plenty of food but the loneliness of being alone takes a toll on his sanity. He begins contemplating suicide until he comes across the public library and realizes that now, finally, he has all the time to read all he wants without interruption. He picks out stacks of books to read each month and, as he's leaving the library with the first stack, he stumbles and falls and shatters his reading glasses. Now...imagine if all the books in the world were available only in digital form and there was a power outage, a natural disaster, a nuclear war. Just as the character in this story is at the mercy of his glasses, we are at the mercy of our technology.

On the plus side was this New York Times article The Long Ride Home about long-distance commuters reading on the train to and from work and this blog post on the same topic from the UK Guardian Unlimited. I notice, however, that while the text is about reading books, the photographs show most commuters reading newspapers.