Thursday, August 23, 2007

What We Read

There have been two recent studies on the reading habits of Americans that came out in the past week or so.

One painted a fairly bleak picture of American readers:

One in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those who did read, women and seniors were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.

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.
While some have used those numbers to portray Americans as a bunch of slack-jawed morons, it overlooks what exactly was sampled - people reading books. I read. A lot. At work and at home. I read cases, blogs, law review articles, magazines, newspapers, short fiction, etc. But rarely do a read what most people think of as a "book" (a novel or single topic non-fiction tome). Am I underread? It doesn't feel like it.

I will say, at least, that the girlfriend reads more than enough for the both of us, statistically speaking. She reads more books in a month than I have hot dinners!

The other study focused on what kind of people do the most reading, concluding that liberals tend to read more than conservatives:
The AP-Ipsos poll found 22 percent of liberals and moderates said they had not read a book within the past year, compared with 34 percent of conservatives.

Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.

By slightly wider margins, Democrats tended to read more books than Republicans and independents. There were no differences by political party in the percentage of those who said they had not read at least one book.
Given the survey, the spin was inevitable. Pat Schroeder, former Democratic Congresswoman from Colorado, said that the "Karl Roves of the world" have created a generation who wanted short simple slogans rather than in depth analysis, while liberals
can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion.
A White House spokesman responded,
Obfuscation usually requires a lot more words than if you simply focus on fundamental principles, so I'm not at all surprised by the loquaciousness of liberals.
Zing! Somebody should collect these witticisms and write a book about them!

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