Oprah's Call for Book Lovers

Oprah Winfrey's pick of three books by William Faulkner for her readers' club this summer is the literary equivalent of a starter's gun.

So vacationers - turn your pages!

Like other summer pleasures - a walk on a beach, hiking in a forest - communing with ideas presented in a book restores the spirit. Ms. Winfrey knows the encounter with a gifted author like Faulkner is exhilarating, even if he deals with humanity's dark side. Troubled by race relations? An inability to find love? Faulkner's been there, done that, and tells about it so well he won a Nobel Prize. But any number of works by gifted authors might do. The point is, reading can be transforming.

Sure there are blockbuster summer movies to see, but there remains the refrain: "I read the book and the movie left so much out." A whole new generation of Harry Potter readers has found the truth in such words.

A Gallup poll taken in May found that 47 percent of Americans on any given day are reading a book. This is up from 37 percent in 1990, and 23 percent in 1957. The median number of books read in a year is five. The poll also found that neither the Internet (3 percent) nor book reviews in newspapers (7 percent) play much of a role in how people select a book. Four out of five people choose a book based on a favorite author, a recommendation from a friend or colleague, or by just browsing in a bookstore or library.

Here are two questions for Gallup to ask: "Did you read a book with a child that wasn't a school assignment? Did you discuss it together?"

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