Reading is my all-time favorite activity—I average about two books per week, and am working toward 100 books read this year. But according to a new survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of my peers don't operate the same way.
Every year since 2003, the Bureau surveys thousands of individuals to see how they're spending their time, and compiles the results in the annual American Time Use Survey. It measures time spent on everything from sleeping to chores to leisure activities, like sports and reading. The good news? People (especially older) still read every day. The bad news? They're reading a lot less than they were in 2003. Individuals 75 and over read for nearly an hour per day, on average, while those 15-44 only averaged ten minutes of reading per day.
Over at the Washington Post, editors compiled yearly data into a handy chart, which illustrates the decline in leisure reading since 2003. While the declines aren't huge, it doesn't look like people are picking up more books any time soon.
The survey doesn't detail why this decline is happening—although we can guess it's related to how much more time we spend on technology and TV—but I believe that a really good book is even better than four episodes binged on Netflix.
Need help getting out of your reading slump? Bring one of these books to the beach, and I guarantee you'll make time for fiction.
Ghosted, Rosie Walsh
If you've been on a date in the 21st century, you likely know the feeling of being "ghosted." But what if your date's disappearance wasn't bad manners, but something more sinister? That's the idea behind Walsh's novel—Sarah and Eddie meet, connect, but Eddie abruptly stops contacting her. Sarah's friends convince her this is par for the course, but she knows something more troubling is going on—and she's right.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras
This beautiful novel centers on two young girls, seven-year-old Chula and thirteen-year-old Petrona, who live in Colombia during Pablo Escobar's regime but under drastically different circumstances. Chula's gated community in Bogota provides shelter from the chaos of her country. Petrona, a live-in made for Chula's family, comes from the slums, and though young, shoulders the burden of caring for her family. As drug wars tear across the country, Chula's community becomes less protective, and both girls are caught in decisions whose consequences test their friendship and change their lives.
Dear Mrs. Bird, A.J. Pierce
Emmy Lake is living in London during World War II, when she answers an ad from the London Evening Chronicle, hoping to become a war correspondent. Instead, she becomes a typist for their advice columnist Henrietta Bird, which was originally a huge disappointment, until Emmy starts secretly answering letters from troubled, distressed women across the country.
America for Beginners, Leah Franqui
Pival Sengupta is recently widowed and reeling from news that her son, who had moved to California, was found dead. Suddenly, she finds herself on a plane to New York, and when she arrives, part of an eccentric tour group making its way across the country. Together with her companions, Satya and Rebecca, Pival searches for her son and explores the country he decided to call home.