17 May 2011

Bookstore entrance - and a poll

Photo of the bookshop "Le Bal des Ardents" in Lyon (Rue Neuve), credit to Isaius, via at the Breathing Books tumblr.

And now a poll...

My post yesterday about the alleged book-reading habits of the great unwashed public ("1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives") generated an inordinate number of comments, many doubting the validity of the data (which may in fact not be true, but all of us are too busy to look up the source of the numbers).

TYWKIWDBI readers are certainly not representative of the general public, but it was suggeted that it might be interesting to survey how many books people visiting here actually DO read in a year.  I've just reviewed my lists of "books read" (which I've kept since 1988), and for the ten years since my retirement from full-time employment, I've read an average of 33 books/year. 

Just as a matter of curiosity, I've added a poll at the top of the right sidebar; the choices are:
  • two books a week or more (>100)
  • one book a week ("about 50")
  • two books a month ("about 25")
  • one book a month ("about 12")
  • one book a season ("about 4")
  • one or two books a year
  • no books, but I read other things
And in response to Ninabi's query ("I would enjoy a what-are-you-reading? post as I am constantly looking for new books to read."), please feel free to use the Comments section of this post to mention what you are reading now (if it is really good) or something you've read recently that you would recommend to others (limited to something they wouldn't already have heard about, and is not on all the must-read lists.)

And I'll add a note that this blog has a recommended books category that has about 50 entries in it.


  1. Currently reading "Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America" by Douglas Brinkley. I'm about 150 pages into it so far and it's pretty good.
    Recently read "Out West" by Dayton Duncan. Would totally recommend that to anyone who's interested in road tripping across the U.S.

  2. I entered 12 in your poll. I read about 18 to 20 books per year so I couldn't enter 25.

  3. Sooo, "Green Eggs and Ham","Animal Farm", and "A History of Private Life, Vol II" all count for the same on your poll.

    These results will not be particularly enlightening.

    Oh, and how many books do I read in a week? Since there's a 2 year old book fiend at home, a ton.

  4. Last year was the first I kept count, and I cleared fifty largely due to counting each Shakespeare play separately. This year I got a Kindle, which is keeping my rate at nearly a book a week. Currently on a Miéville binge.

  5. I'm a freshman now so I don't have time to read more than a book a month right now. Last year, during my military service, I read about 50.

  6. I read a lot of stuff online - perhaps as many as 200 articles a day, obviously of varying lengths. Hard to quantify that...

  7. I read about 2 books a week, but most are novels. When I switch to non-fiction that slows considerably. I am currently reading "The Neon Court" by Kate Griffin, the third in a new Urban Fantasy series that I feel is one of the best of that genre.

  8. I'm aiming for 50 books this year, although I'm running behind, as you can see from my Goodreads page:


    I read in all sorts of media these days - on my Nook, audio books in the car, and even good old fashion DTB (Dead Tree Books).

  9. Currently reading Among the Thugs by Bill Buford (about British soccer hooligans) and a prose translation of the Canterbury Tales by Peter Ackroyd.

  10. If I count the books that I read (over and over and over) to my kids, I can vote that I read about 1000 books per year. ;-)

  11. Also, the last thing I read was "Serve God Save the Planet" by Sleeth. I'm absolutely a non-religious person, but the book made good arguments for environmentalism that were based not on nature's needs but on human ones. I would recommend it as a must-read for those who believe in God and a good read for those who don't.

  12. I never used to really keep track of the books I read, but started keeping a list a few years ago. I average right around a book a week, but there are months where I read six or more, and other months when I barely get through one (depending on my schedule and the length/complexity of the book).

    I just finished "The Corrections," by Jonathan Franzen (which I really liked) and I'm about to dive into a trilogy of Jo Nesbo (Norwegian writer) mysteries.

  13. Currently reading "Hero", a biography of T.E. Lawrence by Korda, and "Guns, Germs, and Steel", by Diamond. I usually have two or three going at any one time, and complete about 50 a year over the past 30 years.

  14. Just finished Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar" and now I've just started "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery. When university is in session it's almost impossible to find spare time to read, so summer and vacations are my only real chance to read.

  15. @ Why Are You Reading This, one reason I keep a list of books I've read (and movies I've seen) is that as I get older I find my memory less reliable in recalling whether I've read or seen something (and especially re how good it was re whether to recommend it to others, which is why I rate everything on a 1-4+ scale).

    The othere reason is so that when I memory finally DOES go, I can just pull up the list of 4+ books and 4+ movies and spend my time enjoying them over and over again...

  16. I'm in the 100+ category but...I'm a librarian and my library is in a consortium with every other academic library in the state so I have a wonderful array of books delivered right to my workdesk. I also think as a librarian I should try to be familiar with new releases, different genres, etc.

  17. Jerry in, around, and of DallasMay 17, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    'Stan, good for you on keeping a list of what you have read! I'm doing the same, if only to avoid checking out the same book from the library a year or so in the future when I could be reading something new!

  18. I generally read a nonfiction book and a fiction book each week. I found my reading time really increased once I stopped watching TV. (I still watch Doctor Who, though. One must have priorities.)

    What I'm reading now is The Control of Nature by John McPhee, part of which is about the possibility of the Mississippi river changing course and going down the Atchafalaya River and bypassing Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The current floods are testing the limits of the flood controls in place to stop that from happening.

    The book is an expansion of a New Yorker article that, if you have a lot of spare time, is a really good read.


  19. I had a hard time answering this question because much of what I read I read for instruction so I'm unlikely to 'finish' a book on knitting or drawing. Also, I bring home a lot of books for inspiration/reference so while I have about 200 books checked out to me right now, I'm actively reading cover-to-cover just two (and just finished a couple). I can say this: it's uncommon for me to be reading just one book at a time.

  20. Currently reading Society and the Spectacle by Guy Debord which is pretty illuminating, in my opinion.

    I want to second Heather's recommendation for McPhee's Control of Nature, or at the very least, the New Yorker excerpt which deals specifically with the Atchafalaya River basin. Though written decades ago, it is still extremely topical.

  21. I read somewhere between 25 and 50 actual books a year, probably closer to 25, so that's what I checked. I read huge amounts of stuff on the Web. I read mostly fiction offline, largely fairly light with some "literary" novels mixed in.

    Most recent "literary" read was Philip Baruth's The Brothers Boswell, which was very well done and quite absorbing, but not as good as his earlier The X-President, which I read when it came out and re-read right after the Boswell novel.

    For lighter reading, I've been on a historical mystery/detective kick. I'm reading two excellent series concurrently (alternating): C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake mysteries, set in Tudor England; and I.J. Parker's Sugawara Akitada series, set in 11th-century Japan.

    After I finish the current Parker novel, my next book will be nonfiction, Joel Achenbach's The Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, an account of the Gulf oil spill that's had terrific reviews.

    --Swift Loris

  22. I read about 50% fiction and 50% non-fiction.

    I'm currently reading:
    American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam, David E Campbell

    Recently I've read:
    -Who Wrote the Bible
    -God is Not Great
    -Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
    -Big Rock Candy Mountain
    -The Blank Slate
    -The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
    -Graveyard Book
    -Comfortably Numb
    -Greatest Show on Earth
    -The Grand Design
    -Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

  23. They had to spot me a point to graduate High School, and I didn't go to college, but I do read about two new books a year. I have a habit of reading books I like over and over again. There are some books I bet I've read a dozen times.
    I read a lot of blogs the last few years. I don't have the attention span to tackle big books anymore.
    Thats probably a bad thing, and I blame the internet....and TYWKIWDBI!

  24. I just finished The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba. It's the author's account of how he brought electricity to his small village in Africa as a boy using library books on wind power. The descriptions of growing up in a small town combined with ingenuity is excellent.

    I also just read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, whose cervical cancer cells live on today in laboratories around the world- yet the lady herself suffered and died in anonymity until the author, Rebecca Skloot, did extensive research and contact her family.

    Currently reading When You Are Engulfed By Flames by David Sedaris. His wit and humor have eased the loss of my father, a writer himself.

  25. Re-reading the Dying Earth books by Jack Vance, one of my favorite authors. Looking for something new in the meantime.

  26. I read more than 50 a year, but less than 100. I answered 50.

  27. Do comics/graphic novels count? I've always wondered whether the brain responds to them in the same way as just reading.

  28. Water for Elephants is a fantastic book...don't let the disappointing movie put you off.

    Pillars of the Earth is an amazing epic book

    The Art of Racing in the Rain is an beautiful book for dog lovers.

  29. I'm sad to say it but I clicked None (though I read other things)

    For your interest I'm 19 and the last novel I read was The Great Gatsby a few years back. I really ought to read more it's just I'm a slacker.

  30. I read at least a book a week, usually 2. My preferences range from mystery/suspense (The Millenium Trilogy was fantastic), to historical novels (currently reading about the settling of Alaska ~ because amazing mysteries of Dana Stabenow made me curious), renewable energy, current science discoveries, etc.

  31. have been re-reading some Vonnegut, but also just found Dan Simmons who has an incredible book Hyperian--if you're into sci-fi at all.

  32. Do audiobooks count? I've listened to 2 a month for 6 years. Currently listening to "Roughing It" - classic Mark Twain Americana, and James Glieck's "The Information," a superb book, 9 out of 10. My wife and I are also listening to "Kill bin Laden," which, coincidentally, we started a week before he was killed. I'm reading a short story compilation called "21 Short Stories" - classic authors like Poe and Steinbeck. And I'm also enjoying "Star Island," Carl Hiaasen's hilarious take on the cult of celebrity.

  33. "Le Ton Beau de Marot - in praise of the music of language" by Douglas Hofstadter. Quite brilliant, especially if you're into languages, although Hofstadter does tend to use it to showcase his own translations (which aren't always quite so brilliant).

  34. I read about a dozen books fully a year (not counting children's books on repeat lol) I read a prodigious amount of internet content.

    My husband and I were recently discussed how our internet reading habits (short, blog length pieces in a journal/istic style) have impacted our attention span for longer books. We just can't sit and get lost in a book the same way. Of course, some of this may be that we have babies right now, and we're too exhausted! haha

    I've really appreciated all your library related posts lately. It has inspired me to do a library related post of my own soon :)

  35. I'm a very busy guy, but I realized last year I didn't get to as many books as I wanted. I set the goal for this year at 30 books read, and am on pace for 45-50. The current book I am reading is "Wise Man's Fear" which is an amazing fantasy book (2nd in the series).

    Of course a good 20 of those will be "read" while I am driving in the car or otherwise engaged via a good book on Audio. I prefer actually reading over listening, but the later is better than nothing.

  36. My wife and I are currently enjoying "Shadow of the Silk Road" by Colin Thubron. We've never read his works before, but he is a great writer.


    I am also reading the second book of the Tripod Trilogy "The City of Gold and Lead" with my 1-yr old.


  37. Tabloid city by Pete hamill very good

  38. I'm reading "Under Heaven" by Guy Gavriel Kay. It's a fantasy set in an Imperial China analogue, and centers on a young man who has spent the last two years at a battlefield burying the bones in honor of his deceased father. His piety gets attention, to the extent that a princess gives him two hundred and fifty Sardian horses as a reward. As the cover flap says:

    "You give a man one of the legendary Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him toward rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Giving two hundred fifty is unthinkable - a gift to overwhelm an emperor."

    The book deals with him returning from the battlefield/graveyard to a drastically altered life, and the political intrigue that surrounds his suddenly exalted status. It's the most original plot I've seen in a long time, and word-for-word this is one of the most technically skilled authors I've ever read. I'm very impressed.

  39. I'm on a binge do DIY books up to 10 a week depending on the subject. Maybe a novel or two a month depending on time. I'm a wife and health care worker for a handicapped person so time can be limited somedays. My current books are Joey Green's series of things you can do with household products and jewelry making books. I do read a lot of current news, cooking blogs, and my biggest weakness, cartoons on the internet. I probably average 25 to 50 books a year this way.

  40. Since I have a tendancy to read long, detailed non-fiction books (I've read a lot of the Official US Army History books known as Green Books), I only read around 2 books per month. But every once in a while I'll purchase some popcorn books (TV show tie-ins like Eureka or Doctor Who) and have been known to read them in a single night.

    I'm currently reading Steeds of Steel by Yeide


  41. I've been on a graphic novel kick recently. Finished up Maus and reread all of Transmetropolitan last week (both of which are highly recommended examples of the form).

    Just picked up a few Vonneguts to reread (Slaughterhaouse 5, Cat's Cradle) and am looking forward to making a dent in the stack of Philip K. Dick books I've just purchased.

  42. I put in for 50 in the poll - but I read mostly the same books over and over again, interspersed with crime fiction my husband brings home. He gets through about 3 a month.
    Our girls are always reading - we are in the car a lot with gym and dance classes so they read a book a day during the week - youngest is currently devouring the Lemony Snicket books "A Series of Unfortunate Events". Eldest chewed through the whole Harry Potter series one weekend after years of not wanting to. True teen that she is, she rereadds Twilight regularly. I reread Mercedes Lackey on a regular basis, and must get myself a copy of Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" - I love it and I think my youngest will too.
    Recommended? Crime fiction by Tess Gerritsen; Produce industry commentary by Hans Maurer; comedy crime capers by Jennifer Cruisie; early Clive Cussler, Stephen King and Dean Koontz; Neville Shute and Dick Francis; oh, I almost forgot: Chaucer - but you need to read him out loud to get the flow (same with Shakespeare I reckon).

  43. From my reading notebook, I averaged 56 books a year for the 2003-2010 period, with a relaxed definition of books (graphic novels, smallish essays, academic books, massive fantasy omnibus...)
    It's a good think that you made me count them : I had been having a haunting feeling that I wasn't reading as much as I used to, but it doesn't seem that bad after all.

  44. This is the first year that I've made a list and set a target, and I estimated that I usually do about 1 a month so I set myself the target of 12. I'm at about 8 at the moment so I'm ahead, but it does include "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"! I'm going to start Ulysses soon so that should set me on pace again.

  45. Yeah, about 4 or 5 books in the last year for me. I have a back log of books slowly accumulating. I like to read, but don't have the time. Spent 2 days in Charleroi Airport in Belgium, read a 600 page book(Flight of the Nighthawks, fantasy novel by Raymond E. Feist).
    At the moment I'm reading Carl Sagans "Cosmos", I would put it in the required reading section for all of humanity

  46. Best recently read books:
    "The Pursuit of Love" by Nancy Mitford
    "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler" by E.L. Konigsburg (a splendid re-read)
    "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" by Bill Bryson

    Voted 50 books a year, although the number is closer to 80-90, but didn't want to put 100.

  47. I am embarrassed to say that in terms of books, I am in the 4-5 a year category. The depth of interesting online content, articles, essays etc has had a profound impact on that. One commenter spoke of decreased attention span and I have to say I am guilty of that for sure. Currently reading Winter's Bone and it's the work of a superb writer.

  48. Of all the people I interact with (offline) on a daily basis, most of them have never picked up a book after high school. My kids do not read as much as I did at their age, but they all came in the top ten in their classes for the number of books read (class size of more than 200).

    Sadly, since I spend 12+ hours a day online reading, I rarely have time for real books anymore.

  49. Okay . . . somebody's got to say it . . . I read the Bible, the best-selling book of all time. :) I also read many other books. I average a book about every two weeks.

  50. Up until I was about 30, I probably averaged two to three books a week. After nursing school, it took me a long time to pick up a book for pleasure, partly due to time constraints, partly some part of my brain burned out (apparently.) I still read a dozen books a year, often three or four in a month, with a long gap. I find it's harder to find books I really want to read, that don't seem to be the same ones I've read before, that don't disappoint me so much that I want to avoid that author.

    I still read articles and news every day, and the Fortean Times is delivered and devoured every month.

  51. I'm probably at 150+, not counting children's books, I Spy and Can You See What I See?, field guides, and computer books for my job. Needless to say I get Amazon Prime Gratis.

    My last 20:
    Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects
    In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food
    Theories of International Politics and Zombies
    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
    The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms
    Cleopatra: A Life
    Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years
    Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation
    Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices
    The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election
    Little Billy's Letters: An Incorrigible Inner Child's Correspondence with the Famous, Infamous, and Just Plain Bewildered
    Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter
    Whoosh Boom Splat: The Garage Warrior's Guide to Building Projectile Shooters
    Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
    The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath
    The Tea Party Goes to Washington
    Avoid Boring People
    Our School
    A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900

  52. Currently reading "How the States got their Shapes" -- Mark Stein

  53. Right now I'm reading The Moral Lives of Animals, Great House and Among Others.

  54. As a high school English teacher, my reading is less during the school year than during the summer--when I'm working it averages to about a book a week, but during summer vacation and other breaks in the school year, it's more like a book a day.

  55. I was way over 100 full sized novels before my children were born. Than for few years almost nothing (o.k., maybe 10). Now some of the kids are big enough to folow a simple linear story and we are reading together. Mostly picture books, but it is more than 100 again. Size matters:)le

  56. Reading the complete works of Sherlock Holmes. Very nice and light. Also reading the Mrs Jeffrey's Victorian murder series and the Hannah Svensen Cookie murder series. After Sherlock, '20 ans apres', the sequal to the Three musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is scheduled. It's not very serious reading, but it gets me to sleep very well. I read enough serious stuff at work.

  57. Currently reading "Flyte" by Angie Sage - second in the Septimus Heap books. I blame my daughter (now 18) for getting me hooked many years ago on young adult fiction ... it started with Harry Potter and ran on from there. To this day, the family's favorite bedtime activity is my 18yo daughter on one side of me in my bed, and my 14yo son on the other, while Mom (me) reads them a chapter or two of whatever we're reading at that point.

    We've read Harry Potter, all of Narnia, Pern, Asimov, Niven, Pournelle, Pratchett, Piers Anthony, and much more. If you get the idea that we are addicted to epic fantasy and science fiction, SCORE! That's just the family reading.

    My own reading is high-speed, and I often go through two or three books a week. The local bookstores (new and used), garage sales, and often the library and I are VERY good friends. I mourn the advent of bookreaders like Nook, as it looks like the beginning of the end for printed books. And for me, as for many bibliophiles, there is absolutely NOTHING like the heft of a book in your hands or lap, and the smell of the pages of a book (papery for new, and slightly musty for very, very old), or the sound of pages turning. Reading isn't just relaxing as an activity, it's an experience for the senses.

  58. Probably close to 100. I am on a P.G. Wodehouse kick at the moment - inhaled about 6 of his books from Project Gutenberg last week. I decided this year to read all those classics I bluffed my way through in English class, so have been immersed in Poe, Verne, H.G. Wells,etc.

    For a recommendation, might I suggest Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon? Absolutely compelling, and one of the featured characters has what I would consider to be the absolute best job in the history of Mankind. I won't give that bit away, but you'll know it when you read it.

    For Sci Fi fans, check out James Alan Gardner (particularly Vigilant which has the second best job) or Jack McDevitt.

  59. The Barcelona book sounds intersting, Weaving One; I've requested it from our library.

    btw - here's a Google map, with the places from the novel marked -


  60. I'm reading Holly Black's Modern Fairie Tales. Really surprisingly good YA!

  61. I wonder--do people ever find their reading rate diminished by pay? I'm a college student, and I've had a few times where I was low on cash and these were definitely times marked by heavy boredom (stopped buying books for leisure...)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...