Positive Reading

Reading is on the rise in America for the first time in the history of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Conducted five times since 1982, until now the survey has reflected a continual downtown in the overall rate at which adults read literature (novels and short stories, plays, or poems). But in 2008 it rebounded, up seven percent.

Analysts explained that the growth in new readers reflects higher adult reading rates combined with overall population growth. The rate of increase is most rapid among young adults, age 18-24. The absolute number of adult literary readers grew by 16.6 million between 2002 and 2008.

The survey shows that online readers are also book readers, either in electronic or print media. So naturally I wondered – would their next book be a Cory Doctorow novel? A John Scalzi novel? Possibly, but the odds are against it being a science fiction novel by anyone.

Adults who said they read novels and/or short stories were asked which of five categories of fiction they enjoy. Unfortunately, science fiction trailed the field, enjoyed by only 25.4% of the respondents, following mysteries 53.0%, “other fiction” 40.8%, thrillers 32.6% and romance 28.5%.


The survey sample size was over 18,000 adults. To learn more about the results, download the brochure: Reading on Rise.pdf.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

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