Is Anyone In The U.S. Still Reading Books? (Maybe! There's Hope!)

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booksPhotographed by Christy Kurtz.
So many books, so much more Internet. Yes, it's a wonder we read anything at all. And, while there will be no book-shaming here, we have to ask: How many did you read last year? Well, if you're like nearly a quarter of Americans, you opened/downloaded exactly zero in 2013. Which isn't great, but that means over 75% did, right? Besides, it's not the only statistic to consider.

The Pew Research Center found that 28% of Americans read 11 or more books in 2013 (13% devoured 50+). And, while that's down from 41% in 1978, it's not necessarily a sign that literary end-times are nigh. The Atlantic points out that the average number of books a person reads increases with education, and those with just a little bit of college education consume more than those with none. So, when you consider that more people go to college today than ever before — 85% of the high school class of 2004 has some postsecondary education — and that we read more as we age, the written word may still have a future. That future might not be in paperback, but it is there. And, that's good news for our brains.

Dan Hurley, author of Smarter: The New Science of Brian Power, spent a few years interviewing psychologists and neuroscientists about the cognitive effects of reading. And, in The Guardian, he writes that the relationship between reading and intelligence is tight enough to be called "symbiotic." Yes, a regular date with a good book increases our three major types of intelligence: crystalized (all the little facts roaming around our brains); fluid (problem-solving and pattern-finding); and emotional (the ability to know what others are thinking). In fact, it's believed that an emphasis on critical reading and writing over the last 100 years has paid off with average IQ scores jumping 20 points.

Regardless of the cause, the connection is clear: Reading is still the tried-and-true path to knowing more stuff. It's like a great little path that leads to a better, more fascinating world, sort of like — not to get all LeVar Burton on you — a rainbow. (The Atlantic/The Guardian)