Published July 13, 2023
Once our school days are behind us, many adults begin to treat reading as a luxury activity, an occasional hobby we might dip into during a week at the beach or in rare moments of leisure. Few Americans, it seems, give much thought to the subject of how to choose good books. Instead, we might idly select titles that grace the best-seller list or a friend’s bookshelf, if we make time to read regularly at all.
A Gallup survey from January 2022 found that Americans read an average of 12.6 books during the previous year, the lowest number Gallup has recorded since 1990. The poll found that adults in the U.S. read about two or three fewer books per year than they did between 2001 and 2016. More-educated Americans in particular reported reading less than in the past: In 2021, college graduates said they read an average of about six fewer books annually than was the case for their cohort between 2002 and 2016.
According to the survey — which, notably, allowed respondents to count books partially finished — the overall decline was mostly a function of a drop in how many books readers were reading, as opposed to a decline in the number of Americans who were reading at all.
EPPC Fellow Alexandra DeSanctis writes on culture and family issues, with a particular focus on abortion policy and pro-life advocacy, as a member of the Life and Family Initiative.