Most Americans don’t read fiction, but the residents of some U.S. states are far bigger bookworms than others.
The number of adults who read at least one novel, play or poem within the past 12 months fell to 47% in 2012 from 50% in 2008, according to a new survey of over 37,000 Americans, “A Decade of Arts Engagement,” by the National Endowment for the Arts, a government agency that promotes artistic excellence.
Fiction reading rose from 2002 to 2008, but has been dropping ever since — and is now back to 2002 levels. By comparison, 30 years ago 56% of Americans read fiction. The decline in fiction reading last year occurred mostly among white Americans, including women and men of various educational backgrounds; rates held steady among non-white and Hispanic groups, the report found.
Men are more likely to read nonfiction books than fiction, while the opposite holds true for women: 55% of women read fiction in 2012, and 48% read nonfiction, according to an update of a previous NEA report released in 2013. Young adults are more likely to read fiction than nonfiction books, whereas the oldest Americans (aged 75 and older) are more likely to read nonfiction books, the NEA found. Literary reading varied widely from state-to-state: It was 63% in Washington state, far above the national average, and 56% in Colorado, Rhode Island and Connecticut, but just 34% in Alabama, 36% in Virginia and 37% in Nevada.
Like newspapers, sales of print books are declining. Just 54% of Americans cracked open a book of any kind last year — print or digital, fiction or nonfiction. But novels have suffered more than nonfiction in recent years, according to research firm Nielsen. Total adult print book sales fell 2.5% to nearly 501.6 million in 2013 from 2012; adult nonfiction sales were broadly flat at 225.2 million, while fiction sales dropped 11% to 103.5 million.
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In an era of social networking and sharing, it’s also harder to bond around the water cooler over a novel. Thousands of works of fiction are published every year, Sorrentino says, but only a few hundred come to the attention of a discerning reading public through newspaper reviews or celebrity endorsements like, say, Oprah Winfrey’s book club. Of course, there are occasional exceptions to the water cooler rule such as “Gone Girl” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.” “It’s really hard to read William Faulkner and go into the office and say, “What did you think of that last chapter of ‘Light in August’?” These days, people get their fictional narratives from complex characters on cable television, he says.
Link to the rest at MarketWatch and thanks to Dave for the tip.