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Want to Feel Better About Yourself? Read a Book!

According to the results of a survey from the Pepsi Optimism Project, Americans are optimistic—more optimistic, in fact, than they were back in November 2008. Specifically, the surveys shows that people become more optimistic about our personal relationships, health, finances, and overall well-being in the last seven months (although they’re a bit less optimistic about their careers these days). What attracted our attention, though, was the sort of things that make people feel optimistic—and might just lift the spirits of those of us in the publishing industry, too.

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While the official survey report zeroed in on the importance of a constellation live events like music concerts, theatrical performances, and speeches, the one “optimism booster” cited by more respondents than any other—88 percent—was “books.” Unfortunately, that’s not broken down by categories, so it’s not quite clear whether fiction or non-fiction lifts people’s spirits, so you should probably read a little of both, just to be on the safe side.

(Meanwhile, 56 percent of those surveyed say they feel optimistic after attending poetry readings, which was pleasantly surprising as we had not realized poetry readings were so popular—although clearly they should be!)


A few more data points, as long as we’re here: Oddly enough, 96 percent of those surveyed expressed optimism about the shape of things to come, but only 25 percent had an upbeat perspective on the immediate future and the year ahead. And though more than two-thirds of the baby boomers, Gen-Xers, and millenials queried said they’d recently witnessed or participated in activities that made them feel optimistic, only 59 percent of those 63 or older would say the same. (Finally, less than a third of Americans, the survey adds, gain optimism from blogs—although, again, it was unclear whether that means reading blogs, writing them, or both.)

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