Friday, August 24, 2007

A Few Words About Reading

You already know that I read just about everything I can lay my hands on...a gift I inherited from my mother, who once laughed at me for reading the back of the cereal box at breakfast because I didn't have a book handy. I can't imagine not reading, and I've tried to pass that love on to my children and grandchildren (I can probably start reading to Leya any time...she's four days old, after all).

A CNN article I found the other day documented an Associated Press-Ipsos poll on the habits of readers in the United States, and offered some interesting observations. According to the poll, one in four US adults said they read no books at all in the past year; of those who did read, women and senior citizens were the most avid readers, with religious works and popular fiction the top choices of reading material. By comparison, a 2004 report from the National Endowment for the Arts titled "Reading at Risk" noted that only 57% of American adults had read a book in 2002, a drop of four percentage points in a decade, and blamed television, movies, and the Internet for the decline.

According to the original AP-Ipsos poll, those who did read were very enthusiastic about it, with many respondents reporting that they'd read dozens of books and "couldn't do without them." The median figure of books read was nine for women and five for men. People from the South tended to read more than those from other regions, mainly religious books and romance novels. Whites tended to read more than blacks and Hispanics. People who described themselves as Democrats or "liberals" typically reading slightly more than Republicans and "conservatives." The Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds of the respondents, more than any other category of book. Half of the respondents reported reading popular fiction, histories, biographies, and mysteries, and one in five cited romance novels. Every other genre (including politics, poetry, and classical literature) was named by less than five percent of readers, while more women than men tended to read every category of books except for history and biography (underlining a book industry observation that men tend to prefer nonfiction).

So what does all this mean?

There are lots of books out there, and too few people are reading them. I tend to prefer history, biography, sociology and linguistics, but also have a lot of fiction authors I enjoy (Harry Turtledove, Carl Hiaasen, Michael Gruber, John Dunning, and many others). Agnes, on the other hand, prefers mysteries and thrillers.

To each his or her own, I guess. It doesn't really matter what you read, as long as you entertain yourself, stretch your mind, and learn something useful. The weekend is upon us - why not head out to your nearest bookstore and pick up something that looks good. You won't be sorry.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.



YO said...

I love to read, and I cant stand living without a book. I think it is already a bit addictive, as I am capable of rading a really good book in just over a week. Of course, it has to be really good. Afterwars I feel sorry I finnished it. The problem I think people have is book prices. For example, I cannot rally afford the purchase of so many books, although I was now tempted to indeed go and get something, and stop rereading my old books.

noisms said...

I doubt that it was ever the case that everybody read widely. I'd like to see the statistics for the number of regular book-readers in the USA in the 1950s and the 1900s, for example. I think the distractions are more common nowadays, but the number of people who really love reading has stayed the same, and probably always will. After all, if TV, films and the internet haven't distracted the hard core from giving up books yet, it's doubtful they every will!

Odile S said...

I read many nonfiction books on educational topics. Dvd's and television are providing more educational content every year. Books are available on audio. (Are these considered to be books?).
There are many reasons why people don't read books. Books have advantages over computers.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

That's shocking to hear that so many people don't read a book. They are so important.

John said...

I am so glad that my wife and I are avid readers. I tend towards nonfiction, she towards fiction. My daughter (15) is rarely without a book and has tantrums if we can't get to library before we take a vacation. My son is pretty topic sensative. He'll only read if it really catches and holds his attention, but is a good reader.

All in all, I'd have to guess that most of us that read/write blogs might be more surprised about non-readers. After all, we are readers!

Serina Hope said...

I couldn't live without reading. I don't understand how people do it. Reading is like going to another plain of existence. It is truly like nothing else and I don't think you can ever become a thinker if you aren't a reader first. Great post.