The Washington Post

Washington area remains nation’s ‘most literate city’ — and among most romantic

Clearly, we’re not just about gridlock and lobbyists.

Once again, Washington has been named the most literate city in the United States. And a separate study names Alexandria, Va., the second most romantic city in America. Apparently, all that traffic isn’t hurting action in the library — or the bedroom.

The annual “most literate” ranking by Central Connecticut State University evaluates 75 cities of 250,000 people or more. The researchers, led by University President John W. Miller, consider how many bookstores and libraries a city maintains, how educated its population is, how good and well used its Internet resources are, and how many people subscribe to various magazines and newspapers.

This is the third year that Washington has taken the top stop. Since the study began in 2003, the nation’s capital has always been among the top 10.

Here’s the latest list:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Seattle, Wash.
  3. Minneapolis, Minn.
  4. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  5. Denver, Colo.
  6. St. Paul, Minn.
  7. Boston, Mass.
  8. Atlanta, Ga.
  9. St. Louis, Mo.
  10. Portland, Ore.


Meanwhile, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Amazon released its list of the “Most Romantic Cities in America.” The online retailer devised its ranking by looking at where people are buying romance novels, books about relationships, romantic movies and music, and “sexual wellness” products.

The Amazon list:

  1. Knoxville, Tenn.
  2. Alexandria, Va.
  3. Miami, Fla.
  4. Orlando, Fla.
  5. Cincinnati, Ohio
  6. Vancouver, Wash.
  7. Dayton, Ohio
  8. Murfreesboro, Tenn.
  9. Columbia, S.C.
  10. Pittsburgh, Pa.


Amazon noted that Knoxville has now taken the top spot for two years in a year. (What’s going on there?) And worse, what’s not going on in Boise, Idaho, dubbed “the least romantic city in the US”?

In a statement about the “Most Literate Cities,” Miller said, his study “measures people’s use of their literacy and thus presents a large-scale portrait of our nation’s cultural vitality.  From this data we can better perceive the extent and quality of the long-term literacy essential to individual economic success, civic participation, and the quality of life in a community and a nation.”

The university collects data from public sources such as the American Booksellers Association, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Yellow Pages.

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.



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Ron Charles · February 6, 2013

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