58% of U.S. Adults Do Not Read Books

58% of the U.S. adult population never reads another book after high school. (Church Leader’s Intelligence Report; via Dr. Sam Lamerson)

Can you imagine never reading another book after high school? If you are a book reader, how would your life be different without books? If you do not read books, is there a reason why not? You are reading this, so I know that you are at least a blog reader. What is it about books that keeps you from reading them?

Note: According to the US Census Bureau, 27 percent of U.S. adults age 25 and over had a college degree in 2003. I am assuming that all 27% of them read at least one book after high school. (It’s hard to get through college without reading a book.) I wonder how many of them have read at least one book since graduating from college?

Related post: Thieves of Their Own Imaginations


  1. DAVID says:

    Here’s a sad story on the decline of literary reading in America. The following article from Publisher’s Weekly chronicles how one bookstore owner is burning books in his parking lot to call attention to the plight of reading in America…

    Book Burning for Literacy: The Sequel?
    — Publishers Weekly, 6/18/2007 1:00:00 PM

    Less than a month after burning piles of books they couldn’t get rid of, in an attempt to ignite a national dialogue about the decline in reading in today’s society, the co-owners of a Kansas City used bookstore are continuing their activism-by-match.

    Tom Wayne, Prospero’s co-owner, said he and his partner, Will Leathem, have received 3,000 emails from all over the country in response to their Memorial Weekend action, and probably just as many phone calls. While initially asking visitors to their website to buy a book for $1 plus postage, the pair quickly realized that, with no employees besides themselves, fulfilling orders would be impossible. Instead, they have parked a rented trailer containing 20,000 pounds of books in front of their store, and intend to sell as many books as they can for as much as the customers will pay, within the month they have leased use of the trailer. Any remaining books will be torched in another public book-burning.

    When PW Daily asked Wayne if he’d applied for a permit to burn books, he responded that he did not need a permit, as “any recreational fire that is well-tended and well-contained is OK” according to Kansas City ordinances.

    “Our recreational fire was allowed under Kansas City code. “The fire department didn’t have the right to douse it,” Wayne said, referring to the Memorial Weekend bonfire, which the local fire department put out in an hour.

    “There’s a wholesale destruction of books in this country. There’s such a need for books, but, at the same time, books are thrown away every day by libraries, by retailers. It’s the biggest secret in the book business,” Wayne complained.

    “There should be a national organization that’ll re-distribute books to prisons, small-town libraries, and women’s shelters, so we wouldn’t have to do something like this,” Wayne added.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Wow, burning books because people won’t read them. That is sad. Thanks for sharing this. I had not seen anything about this story in the news.

  3. My assumption would be that far too many associate reading, in general, and reading books, in particular, with school.

    Thus, in the summer … no reading.

    After school (high school or college or graduate school, etc.) … no reading.

    I was an “extra-curricular” reader prior and during high school. Even in graduate degrees I’ve been an extra-curricular reader.

    I’d be curious to see results of studies where folks read for “other reasons” (than scholastic requirement) prior to graduation to see if there’s much distinction between them and those who only read a book (or its Cliff’s Notes) for a class requirement.

    I also wonder if the miracle of the Internet has be a key competitor to how people allocate their time, with blogs and myspace winning the battle.

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