While on vacation this summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Biltmore Estate, the largest home in America. After the tour, my companions and I took a poll on the favorite room and found that the library was the winner.
And with more than 20,000 books bound in leather and gold, it’s not surprising that my friends and I would choose that room!
The magnificence of the library is likely due to the fact that the home’s original owner, George Washington Vanderbilt, was quite a reader. As the estate’s website explains:
“When he was 12, George Vanderbilt began recording the names of each book he read in a journal, and he continued that habit throughout his life. If we look at any representative year, we get a sense of the breadth of his intellect. In 1899, Mr. Vanderbilt read a total of 51 books….”
That statistic is interesting, particularly since Pew Research just released its annual assessment of American reading habits. The good news is that American reading habits haven’t gotten worse since 2015. The bad news? More than 1 in 4 Americans didn’t read a book last year.
To be sure, George Washington Vanderbilt was a wealthy man who likely had a little more free time than most Americans today – although that is debatable considering the sheer immensity of the estate he managed – and could therefore spend more time reading.
Yet even with taking Vanderbilt’s advantages into consideration, doesn’t it seem a bit sad that over a quarter of Americans didn’t even bother to pick up one book during the last year – either in print or digital format?
Benjamin Franklin once noted that reading makes a full or well-rounded individual. If Americans continue to avoid reading, will our nation be filled with people ill-equipped and unprepared to lead the next generation?
Image Credit: Thomas Hawk bit.ly/1eBd9Ks
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.