In a bit of news we'll interpret as the glass being just over half full, the National Endowment for the Arts says 54.5 % of adult Americans voluntarily (meaning it wasn't for work or school) read a book in 2012, the same as when the group did its last survey in 2008.
The percentage of people who read at least one "work of literature"--defined as novels, short stories, poetry or plays--ticked down to to 46.9% from 50.2% four years earlier. No surprise, women continue to be the bigger readers of both fiction and nonfiction. While 63.6% of females responding to the survey last year said they'd read at least one book, only 44.7% of males did. Breaking it out to a "work of literature," 36.9% of men reported reading in 2012, compared with 56.1% of women.
The survey also looks at reading by race, education level and age. Nearly 61% of whites said they'd read a book in 2012, unchanged from 2008, while the percentages of African Americans and Hispanics who read a book ticked up. Among people with advanced degrees, 81.7% had read a book, almost twice the rate of those with just a high school education.
The reading figures are part of a broader report titled Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. That report also found 59% of Americans went to a movie last year and 37% attended a live performance.