Rejoice, St. Louis! There's been another list ranking America's cities and this time we didn't totally embarrass ourselves! Central Connecticut State University has released its annual rankings of the nation's most literate cities and this year, we've tied with Portland, Oregon, for number nine. And, yes, there were more than ten cities polled. There were 67. So there.
All right, it's not as great as our 2007 ranking of number six, but it sure beats number 11, where we languished last year.
What is the reason for this sudden burst of literacy, aside from the usual arbitrariness of polls?
Turns out St. Louis has the second-highest number of booksellers per capita (both new and used, though the poll did not count "specialty", "adult" or "religious" bookstores). And we have an extensive and widely-used library system, second only to that of Cleveland.
St. Louis lagged, however, in education (46) and Internet usage (42). The education ranking was based on the percentage of the adult population with a high-school diploma and a bachelor's degree. The Internet ranking was based on Internet book orders and visits per capita to "a city's internet version newspaper". (It's unclear whether Riverfront Times was included in that calculation or whether it just applied to the Post-Dispatch.)
But what of our number one crime rating? Central Connecticut State did not make any attempt to square the two rankings. (Which is sad. We would have liked to have observed the mental gymnastics involved.) But three years ago, that intrepid reporter Unreal polled local booksellers and the library to find out which books were most often stolen.
Or maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe it's just that we're so terrified of violent crime, we just like to stay home and read.