Do You Live in America’s Least, or Most, Literate Cities?


The late, great comedian Bill Hicks tells one of my favorite stories about reading.  Following one of his late night gigs, he stops at a Waffle House to eat.  Alone, he pulls out a book. A waitress comes up to him,  tray balanced expertly on her fingertips, peers over his shoulder and asks, “What are you reading for?” Not “What are you reading?”… “What are you reading…for.” 

Chances are, Hicks was in one of the towns listed below as the least literate in America. Recently, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers to make determinations about cities with the worst, and best, reading habits. The criteria for these determinations included weekly newspaper circulation rates, the percentage of adults with college degrees, the number of retail bookstores per 10,000 people, and the median income.

Least Literate:

1o.  Long Beach, California

9.  Mesa, Arizona

8.  Aurora, Colorado

7.  Fresno, California

6.  San Antonio, Texas

5.  Anaheim, California

4.  El Paso, Texas

3.  Stockton, California

2.  Corpus Christi, Texas

1.  Bakersfield, California

Most Literate:

10.  Portland, Oregon

9.  St. Louis, Missouri

8.  Atlanta, Georgia

7.  Boston, Massachusetts

6.  St. Paul, Minnesota

5.  Denver, Colorado

4.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

3.  Minneapolis, Minnesota

2.  Seattle, Washington

1.  Washington, D.C.


  1. Ashley K. Edwards

    Interesting findings. I’m not totally sure I agree with how WSJ came up with these stats, but still interesting nonetheless.

    Thankfully, I do not fall into the “least literate” bucket….

  2. jwheeler1967

    Hey there- Thanks for the comment! The criteria for their decision is listed in the post, and if you click on the embedded link, you will see the actual numerical data.

  3. I’ve never been to America, but I worship literacy, that is why thanks to this list, now I know where to head when such an opportunity comes along (:

    P.S. California, aj, aj, aj (:

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