NK: Is it a problem to define the act of reading more or less exclusively as an encounter with a book?
SM: When the folks at the NEA say “books” they seem almost always to mean novels, short story collections, and volumes of poetry. This is a ludicrously narrow definition. Why don’t they include biographies, memoirs, or non-fiction books about history, science, economics, or even popular philosophy? I’ll agree that most Americans know very little about fiction and poetry, even recent work in their own language. But most of us are yet more profoundly in the dark about the natural and social sciences. Which is the more serious problem?