Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What Color Was it? Yellow?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project – aided by reporters at National Public Radio – seem pretty chipper that the “Facebook Generation” is “reading strong,” in NPR’s words.

How strong?

Well, 83 percent of them read one book last year.

That’s right. One book.

Come on, Facebook Generation – those between the ages of 16 and 29. You can do better.

Of course, we can all do better. The same study shows that the older one gets, the fewer number of his or her peers fall into that “I read a book this year” category.


That makes me sad.

I’ve got four books I’m reading right now. Two for pleasure, one to research an area of interest, in keeping with Pew’s categories, with the final being read for the perverse pleasure of finding a writer weaker than I am who got published, thus giving me an inkling of false hope that I, too, may be published someday. Maybe I can file that under the research category.

My favorite quote about books comes from Sir Terry Pratchett, who said “If you have enough room for your books, I probably won’t like you as a person.” I don’t have enough room for my books. I use books as bookmarks, per another Pratchett bookish guideline. And the thought of reading just one book a year makes me cringe. There’s simply too much out there I don’t know, and books are the best way to get it all squeezed into my brain.

I’m sure the fault lies more with Pew’s questions than with the public in general, though. At least I hope it does. But I have to wonder, why set the bar so low at one book a year? And why not ask about multiple books, though you’re probably going to get a mix of braggers and Forgetful Joneses who inflate the number of books they’ve read or just plain out don’t know. They’re not all anal types like me, who track to the page number how much I’ve read in a given year. (As of this posting, 44 titles totaling 11,244 pages; I have a goal of reading at least 12,000 pages a year.) I hope I’m not an outlier. And yes, there are many books on the list that are there for pleasure, but there are also a few that challenged my attention span and ability to retain information. They’ll end up in the “read again” pile.

Here’s more for Pew: I don’t go to libraries any more. I go to thrift stores and buy books I want to add to my own library at home. I do read e-books, a growing number of them, but they’re still in the minority. As a consequence of my reading habits, I don’t read a lot of current fiction, with only the lightest smattering of current non-fiction, but I do read some to keep me abreast in the fields of technical writing and social internet theory, but just enough so I don’t fall asleep in my soup when I’m reading it.

No comments: