Wednesday, August 22, 2007


CNN tells us today that the average American reads 4 books a year. 25% of all adults read NO books this year.

It's no wonder scenes like this happen:

From Gawker, August 13,
Observations: Scenes From L.A. by doree

But the best part of my trip to California was a conversation I overheard at a Carl's Jr. on Highway 5.

Girl to guy: "Yeah, and then we read this book called the Metamorphosis? It's about a guy who turns into a bug!"

Guy: "That sounds dumb."

Girl: "Yeah, it was retarded."

Guy: "I had to buy that book Elements of Style for one of my classes."

Girl: "That sounds familiar. We also read To the Lighthouse. It has no plot!"

Although, to be fair, it's not like they were wrong. Everyone from Martha Woodmansee to James Wood would say much the same.

I think that's fucking sad. I am not the best reader anymore, with the Internet and films taking up a large portion of my attention. And I tried cataloging my habits on
GoodReads, but I haven't made that a priority, which means I haven't touched it in months.

However, I still read. I blogged about my compulsion to read here. I tried to think back over the past year, and I think I average a book a week. Even with a conservative estimate of a book every two weeks, I read 26 books this past year. If I think long enough, I can list them all.

That also means that I've read 6 to 12 times more than an average American. Can I have a prize now?
Oh, and this is reading for PLEASURE. To expand your mind. To learn something. To enjoy the beauty of language and concepts. To have a good story. Unless, of course, you are this guy:

"Fiction just doesn't interest me," said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Alabama. "If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie."

I am not including any reading that was necessary for work. I am also not including Vanity Fair, which, when read from cover to cover, as I do, qualifies for 12 novels a year. I would love to keep reading The New Yorker, but I just don't have the time.

So, gentle reader - how do you compare to the average American? Do tell. And everything counts - books read for class. Books read to your children. Books read for work. Literary magazines. I don't think "Cosmo"/"Glamour"/"People" count.


riese said...

I probably read about two books a month and about ten magazines [not including marie claire and glamour et al]. I can't believe that's it because I feel like I'm always reading. It's been faster when I eat a book in two days. And slower when I start 10,000 books. i've got like, five started books right now, and've just committed to The Bell Jar.

Crystal said...

I usually read two or three books a week, I'm a quick reader. It's an expensive habit.

In saying this, I read absolute crap. Like, JD Robb or Danielle Steel. Or James Patterson or Lee Child. These are my answer to TV, just simple stories.

About once a fortnight I will read a serious book, one I can be happy to admit to, like a Paulo Coelho or Orwell or something. Not as often as I should, though.

Right now I am reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. I never paid attention in English class, and it really shows.