This year's list of most literate cities has been unveiled, with Minneapolis and Seattle tied for first place and the nation's northern latitudes coming in with a high bookish quotient. In its sixth year, the annual ranking is put out by John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University. Miller views the level of literacy in a given location as a measure of the place's quality of life and level of culture. "I wanted to do a study of not whether people could read but whether or not they do read," he explains. The latter is the more important, he says. After all, in the words of the American literary giant Mark Twain, "The person that doesn't read has no advantage over the person who can't."
The ranking may also indicate some brainy locations where residents have a leg up on overall health. Education is consistently a strong indicator of longevity, and reading, certainly, is a major component of that process.
Inspired by other rankings projects, Miller compiled his by considering American cities with populations greater than 250,000 and drawing on geographic statistics, including online book purchases, number of bookstores per capita, newspaper circulation, trends in reading the newspaper online, library staff per capita, and level of education attained. The result, he says, tends to be relatively consistent, with Minneapolis and Seattle often trading the top spot from year to year or, as they did this year, tying for first.
1) Minneapolis (tie)
1) Seattle (tie)
3) Washington, D.C.
4) St. Paul, Minn.
5) San Francisco
9) St. Louis
10) Cincinnati (tie)
10) Portland, Ore. (tie)
For more coverage of Miller's list, check out our Science page.
As U.S. News has reported in the past, a regimen of brain calisthenics may ward off dementia and Alzheimer's disease in the years to come. Also, among U.S. News's 50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009 are several reading-inspired endeavors like reading up on another literary great, Edgar Allan Poe, and self-publishing a book.