Via Margo and Phiala I came across this story about literacy in Americans, which says that in America someone reading 4-9 books a year is classified as an ‘avid’ reader, and that 1 in 4 [American] people read no books at all. As Margo says, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen similar figures for reading / book buying habits here, too although I can’t currently find a link or evidence of it.
As with Margo, I can’t really recall a time in my life that didn’t have books. My parents read stories to me every night, and that’s where I started learning to read, by learning the patterns the words made and linking them to the sounds they made as my parents read them. I was more than able to read by the time I started school, and I’ve been reading ever since.
I don’t have anywhere near as many books as I used to – if I’d kept all of them over the years, I could probably stock a decent-sized library. Even so, I’ve probably got around four to five hundred books all told, and they’re all the ones I’ll go back to and read more than once. Additionally I’m a regular visitor to the local library – on Herself’s persuasion, admitterdly – but normally get through about 10-20 books a month just through that. If I see books I want to read now – particularly new ones or new authors – I try to get them through the library rather than buying them outright as an experiment, which is what I used to do.
I can hardly even imagine only reading even 9 books a year. I mean really? One book every six weeks? Jesus.
Just as a current example, this week I’ve read (or am currently reading)
- Steel Beach by John Varley (in the car, reading at lunchtimes)
- The Shift by George Foy(also in the car, finished this week before starting Steel Beach)
- Dead and Gone by Andrew Vachss (at home, in the bedroom)
- Missing by Chris Mooney (also at home)
- Spider by Michael Morley (really really crap)
- The werewolf’s guide to life : a manual for the newly bitten by Duncan Ritch
- Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffmann (just about to start)
And that’s a quiet/slow week where I’ve been doing a ton of work as well. Even so, that puts me near the top end of the American average book level for the year within a week. I don’t honestly know how many books I read a year – on that level, it must be a couple of hundred per year.
But more to the point, if that’s my reading level, and the average number of books read per year in the UK is (hey, let’s be charitable) 20 then that still means there’s a whole bundle of people at the other end of the scale who are reading maybe one book a year, or less. And to me that’s really quite scary.