The Great (Literary) Depression

September 17, 2016 | 2

“Ageists who want to fault millennials for the continual decline in literary reading are wrong to do so. Across the board, there wasn’t much considerable variation in the amount literature age groups read. Everyone is hanging out in the 39–49% range.” Is America in the midst of a literary recession? According to the National Endowment for the Arts, 2015 marked the first year in 33 cycles of research that the percentage of adults who read literature had dropped below 45% to a dismal 43%.

is an intern for The Millions. He reads and resides in North Carolina. Brian can be found on Twitter @jbetling, and in the real world behind the counter of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC.


  1. “variation in the amount literature”
    Perhaps the depression isn’t so much in reading as it is in readable materials?

    Not only that, but my inbox is full or “watch this video”s–I’d guess 3-6 hours every day, because talking is faster/easier than typing, and bloggers/marketers think people like seeing faces enough to justify the extra bandwidth/buffering or posting a video rather than an audio.

  2. “Ageists who want to fault millennials for the continual decline in literary reading are wrong to do so.”

    It’s wrong to fault the afflicted for their suffering, to be sure, but anyone who hasn’t noticed the alarming rate of ADMVDD (advanced disjunctive monosyllabic video-dependent dysphoria), among the young and youngish, must be too busy with Facebook to care. The problem with books being that they’re powered not by ads, or lithium ion batteries or Google… they’re powered by the Reader’s intellect… soooooo…. uh….. yeah. Perfect Storm meet Vicious Circle. Because where is the intellect supposed to come from in the first place… Snapchat?

    I sent a two-paragraph email to an under-30 colleague earlier this year and he still jokingly refers to this wild breach of protocol as “War and Peace”. Whereas I can still quite vividly recall a value system in which the longer the letter one received in the post, the happier one was to receive the letter… and we measured length in pages, not paragraphs (or characters). There’s a joke about size in there somewhere…

Add Your Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.