Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forgive my outrage

I already twittered about this, but then I got to thinking, and I needed to vent . . . .

One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday.


The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn't read any, the usual number read was seven.

No wonder why the rest of the world thinks Americans are dumb. We are not well-read.

Some of the article cracks me up, though:

Among those who said they had read books, the median figure — with half reading more, half fewer — was nine books for women and five for men. The figures also indicated that those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and up read more than those who are younger.


People from the West and Midwest are more likely to have read at least one book in the past year. Southerners who do read, however, tend to read more books, mostly religious books and romance novels, than people from other regions. Whites read more than blacks and Hispanics, and those who said they never attend religious services read nearly twice as many as those who attend frequently.

There was even some political variety evident, with Democrats and liberals typically reading slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives.

So, old white female atheist college professors probably read the most, right?

(For the record, I've finished three books so far -- IN AUGUST. I've lost track of how many I've read in total in the past year, but suffice it to say, it's in double digits.)


honeykbee said...

Concerning, indeed. Though I think it would be further disconcerting to hear what sorts of insipid crap most people are reading (you know, of the tiny percentage that are actually reading).

What have you read in August? Anything good? (preferably without wizards, elves, swordplay and/or politics?)

dara said...

Harry Potter 6 & 7 & The Kite Runner. All good in their own way, but apparently the first two are not your thing. The Kite Runner was an excellent, engaging book -- which I read in its entirety last weekend since I could barely put it down -- and gets the Dara seal of approval.

I am now reading James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, from my list. After that, it'll be The Other Boleyn Girl, since they're making a movie of it.

Justin S. said...

Concerning, although I've read very little in the way of books this year either, so I'm part of the problem. Although I do tend to read alot of in-depth, well written essays and such on the internet... That should count for something. Books aren't everything. I get more from psuedo-scholarly works on the internet than any of the Harry Potter books I read.

I'm also not sure this really says anything about Americans in particular. It doesn't provide any info about how much the rest of the world reads. Perhaps the whole world is dumb.

dara said...

Justin: Although I didn't really focus on it, some of my outrage is at what we seem to be reading in this country: "The Bible and religious works were read by two-thirds in the survey, more than all other categories. Popular fiction, histories, biographies and mysteries were all cited by about half, while one in five read romance novels. Every other genre — including politics, poetry and classical literature — were named by fewer than five percent of readers."

Justin S. said...

The Bible shouldn't count anyway... No one reads the Bible from front to back. If we're including partial books read, my numbers go way up.

I still don't know that this really distinguishes us so much from the rest of the world... there are super-religious people everywhere, and I doubt people read much classical literature or poetry anywhere anymore. And people read lots of popular fiction everywhere.... that's why it's called popular fiction.

dara said...

I understand that people read the bible, but I don't understand doing it to the exclusion of reading other things -- even for religious people. There are just so many wonderful stories out there.

I also undertand popular fiction. Heck, I read popular fiction. I just don't understand why people are so scared of the classics.

Justin S. said...

I wonder if there's a distinction between "classic" literature and "classical" literature.... When I think "classical" I think Shakespeare, Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, etc... literature from a different time when people wrote in a different style altoghether... I'd call something like Hemingway or Steinbeck "classic" but not "classical."

I think people don't read older stuff out of convenience. When you walk into a book store you see huge Harry Potter and Da Vinci Code displays, you have to seek out the older, better stuff. I think this is true for all artistic mediums... Why people rent new releases over classic films, and why people listen to Top 40 radio when there's a wealth of great music out there that has stood the test of time.

mad said...

I guess we know which half voted for Bush.