Capital Letters: D.C. Named Most Book-Friendly Burb in the U.S.

Where does your city rank in the annual list of literate locales?

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

This Jan. 25, 2012 photo shows the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington.

Every year for the last decade, Central Connecticut State University has combed through data about American cities with more than 250,000 inhabitants and produced a list ranking them by literacy. Using a number of metrics—newspaper circulation, the number of bookstores in the area, library holdings and usage, local magazine publishing, educational levels and usage of reading-related internet resources—their lists aims to provide a picture of what the study’s author, CCSU president John Miller, calls the “cultural vitality” of the area.

And, for the third year in a row, Washington D.C. has come out on top.

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D.C. and Seattle have traded the top spots for several years—and, sure enough, the Washington State metropolis is at No. 2. The latest top ten are:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Seattle
  3. Minneapolis
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Denver
  6. St. Paul
  7. Boston
  8. Atlanta
  9. St. Louis
  10. Portland, OR

The full list of 76 cities can be found here. Other highlights include two ties, with Honolulu and Oakland sharing the No. 15 spot, and Houston and Los Angeles cohabitating at No. 60. Speaking to USA Today, Miller said that some of the more unexpected results—university-heavy Boston stuck at No. 27 7, for example—are due to the way factors like high-school dropout levels can balance out the other data.

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But even though D.C. has held onto the top spot, the list doesn’t indicate whether Washingtonians are still reading as much as they did even as recently as three years ago. Larger trends would indicate that they might not be: as the study’s author notes, Americans are spending about a quarter less on reading materials than they did in 2000 and about a quarter more on other forms of entertainment (like the website of a popular weekly news magazine).

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