Who reads for fun?

Who reads for fun?

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”**

Anybody who thinks time moves in a linear fashion doesn’t subscribe to an internet newsfeed. 😉

I actually love it when somebody comments on a post I wrote years ago (as has happened a few times recently). Sometimes, somebody wants to correct me because of something that has changed in the intervening time, but that’s okay when it’s done respectfully…it just helps clarify the situation for other people who might stumble across the story.

In my morning

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

read the morning, the

Pew Research: Book Reading 2016

showed up. I do look forward to their report every year, but I realized this one was familiar…and that I had written about it (and the coverage of it) back in September.

However, you can read the report now, which I’m not sure was the case at the time…it might have been more of the summary.

So, since it popped up, I wanted to read it again and in more detail.

I can say, I’m pretty good at spotting trends in numbers. I’m not a visual person. It used to frustrate people who would bring me an Excel chart on which they had worked for hours, and I’d say, “Can you just show me the numbers?” I remember someone doing that…showing me this great colorful chart (I have some color vision deficiency, which might have something to do with this…and I don’t visualize when I read, as I’ve discussed with my readers on this blog before), and me asking for the numbers. The person basically said, “You won’t be able to tell from that.”

I looked at the numbers for a few seconds, pointed to one, and said, “That one’s low.”

On the chart (which I hadn’t read), I think that one might have been circled and had an arrow and a highlight, something like that.

Don’t get me wrong: I think charts are great, and I know how to make visually arresting ones…they often just don’t impress me as much as the numbers.

So, looking at this report, there was a particular number that stood out.

There are a lot of interesting data in the report…what formats people read, which classes of devices they use for e-books, how many books they read, and so on.

The one that seemed to really show a divergence?

The number of books people read “for pleasure”. I used “for fun” in the headline, just because I like the feel of that better…but is reading a horror novel really fun? I think it is for people, while “pleasure” has some other connotations for me. Regardless, you can read this as “for pleasure” if you like. 😉

I’m going to break this down by their categories, and tell you what the “spread” is…what the gap is between the lowest percentage figure and the highest one:

  • Gender: 8%
  • Race: 15%
  • Age: 5%
  • Education: 36%
  • Income: 12%
  • Population density: 4%

Obviously, education has the biggest gap. 56% of people who have less than a high school diploma said they read for fun; it goes consistently up until “College+” is at 92%.

Note that they surveyed adults, so this isn’t just a case that the people in the survey were reading for school at the time, and therefore not reading for pleasure. The less than high school group only had 33% reading a book for “work or school”…”College+” was 72%. That is, of course, an even bigger gap at 39%, but I would guess that’s less under the control of the person. My guess would be that fewer people who have less than a high school diploma are in either school or a job which requires reading books.

What does it mean?

Well, it does tend to refute something I’ve thought…that requiring people to read specific books, and high school generally, might discourage people from reading for fun. The more education one has, which suggests that one has had more assigned reading, the more likely one is to say that they read for pleasure.

Another relatively big gap is reading for work or school correlating with income…that one is 32%.

Still, it’s interesting to me that more education means more reading for pleasure…or, I suppose (and this is also significant), it might be the other way around. People who read more for pleasure may be able to read more (and/or read in a better way) assigned material, meaning that they go farther down the education path.

What do you think? How did having assigned reading affect your reading for fun? Have you changed your opinion of that over the years? We probably all know people without much education who read a lot for pleasure…is there something you think makes the difference for them? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

** I’ve told this story in this blog once before, but it was years ago…and it’s still a good story. 😉

My best weird story was when I was in high school.

I had a history teacher I liked…we got along well. I remember asking if I could teach the causes of the Civil War one day, and was allowed to do that…it went very well.

So, one Friday, this teacher told a joke in our class: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” Yes, they do…fruit flies like all kinds of fruit. 🙂

I thought that was funny, and repeated it to friends.

Monday morning, the teacher told the same joke. The teacher looked and me and said, “You’re not laughing.”

I said, “I thought it was funny on Friday.”

The teacher denied telling it on Friday…and the rest of the class denied hearing it. I was thinking they must have forgotten it, and then the teacher said, “It was in Herb Caen this morning.”

Herb Caen was a famous San Francisco area columnist, and I checked…sure enough, it was there Monday morning, and not Friday (I’m not sure I have the particulars right, but the basic story is right).

The people to whom I’d told it Friday? They remembered me telling it to them…and telling them I’d heard it in that teacher’s class.

Interesting that it was that joke…seems apropos.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

12 Responses to “Who reads for fun?”

  1. Allie D. Says:

    Maybe people who already enjoy reading are more likely to pursue higher education. It’s a self-selecting group.

    Just offering a skewed view here.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!

      Yes, I agree…that’s basically what I meant by, “…People who read more for pleasure may be able to read more (and/or read in a better way) assigned material, meaning that they go farther down the education path.”

  2. alanchurch Says:

    Bufo,you wrote “There are a lot of interesting data in the report”.
    It is rare lately to see data used as a plural noun. Those of us trained in science years ago used data only in the plural. Now it’s used almost exclusively with a singular verb, as in “data is”. Sounds wrong to my ear but etymologists ( and some entomologists) say it is correct when used as a mass noun and both are standard. More than you probably want to know about the word data:

    Allie D. You are correct, of course. I don’t know how much people’s opinion will be of help here. More data are needed.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, alanchurch!

      Your comment is an interesting datum. 😉 I did consider using it the way it is more commonly used, and my linguist adult kid has taught me that all usage which communicates its intent is correct, but I figure this is a more literate audience…and if they don’t know something, they would like to know it. 🙂

      I personally think of data as plural, but it’s worth noting that most people use it as both a singular and a plural…they don’t refer to “datas” for the plural; sort of like “moose”, I assume.

      I do adjust my use, as do most people…I very rarely refer to football stadia, for example. 😉

  3. Man in the Middle Says:

    I learned to read to alleviate boredom while home sick in bed for a week at age 6.

    As for “data” being plural, that was one of the hardest concepts for me to accept when getting a Masters in Computer Science. I solved it by always adding the term “items”, as data items sounds properly plural.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      Your solution is similar some people have employed for the plural of “Bigfoot”. Is it Bigfeet? Is it Bigfoots? Neither sounds great, so some people use “Bigfoot creatures”…

  4. Allie D. Says:

    “I solved it by always adding the term “items”, as data items sounds properly plural.” Man in the Middle:

    I generally say either “a piece of data” or “pieces of data”, whichever is appropriate, and that work-around is good enough for my purposes.

    I often adjust due to things like this. An example that gets to me is when people assume “I” is always better than “me” – as in “between you and I” instead of “between you and me.” I skip that type of construction these days.

    Of course I have my own quirks in writing and speaking, whether I’m aware of it or not.

    To those who love words, it can be sad when some of these changes happen… but language is a living thing. My parents used to insist on the construction “feeling nauseated” instead of “nauseous” but that is outdated.

    When my brother was in preschool, he asked his teacher “Why does it say ‘No Fishing’ next to the aquarium?” When my mother picked him up from school that day, the teacher said incredulously, “Did you know he can READ?” and my mom said, “Of course!” It hadn’t occurred to the teacher to ask. He was a very active and curious kid, and always hyper-aware of his surroundings. He didn’t want to miss any of the fun. 🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!

      Oh, absolutely, most people have their quirks…I do, certainly. There are a couple of things which I notice: for example, when people use “decimate” to mean completely destroyed. It actually means that ten percent of whatever it was was lost…significant, but not fatal, typically. One for me is when a company will say that it is better than an entire category, when the company is part of that category. They should include the word “other”. “Cheaper than any car dealership in the area” from a car dealership should be, “Cheaper than any other car dealership.” 🙂

      I also like to tell my students this one:

      “I was teaching a group of mental health professionals, and told them that one of the reasons I prefer to shop at Trader Joe’s over Safeway is that the express line at T.J.’s actually says ‘Ten items or fewer’ which is correct, rather than ‘Ten items or less’. That does bother me when I am in Safeway. One of the mental health professionals said, ‘Every time?’ I said yes, and my student did a chin stroke and said, ‘Hmmmm’.” 🙂

      I’m sure that ability has served your brother well. 🙂

  5. Allie D. Says:

    Ha I hate the fewer/less issue.
    And my brother didn’t live up to expectations, poor guy. No, it was just kind of a freak thing. An aberration, if you will 😉 I have wondered what it would be like to have an extra couple years reading… but it’s not like he picked up War&Peace or anything. I am sure that he had fun! And that is the best thing about it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!

      🙂 Our now adult kid was pretty advanced…and stayed that way. 😉 Did some physical things a bit later, but academically advanced. We claim the first sentence at 7 months old…even though it was only two words, but they were contextually connected.

  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    So this kind of stuff takes me back to several past lives. But first I ask myself why would someone be interested in this kind of information? I’ll give one simple answer here as a prerequisite to where I want to take this.

    If I am a traditional publisher, and I would like to know the kinds of products I ought to publish, and what demographics ought I to market them to. Alternatively, I might want to know what to throw at children (or others pursuing educational objectives) such that at some future time they will be more likely to purchase the stuff that I publish.

    To simplify I’m going to segregate the product into mass market fiction (mostly the “fun” stuff), and non-fiction. I want to further segregate the non-fiction into tomes dealing with STEM subjects, and all the rest (primarily humanities and social science stuff). Further we should probably segregate both fiction and non-fiction into two buckets: those being read as part of some formal educational program (little discretion as to what is to be read), and those being read for personal enjoyment or edification.

    Now the data laid out in your post primarily deal with correlations among multiple factors, and as I’m sure you know correlation does not imply causation. Several factors are not explicitly mentioned which can be derived such as income level might be correlated strongly with disposable income, and less strongly with available leisure time (both probably necessary prerequisites to a lot of “fun” reading). Educational attainment is probably correlated with income level to some degree as well.

    Then there is the factor of time — especially if we are trying ensure that a demographic evolves into a class that would buy my products at some future time. What comes first: a predilection to “fun” reading leading to a willingness to engage in heavy educational reading, or educational reading improving reading skill levels and familiarity leading to a future desire to read for “fun”?

    So all of this takes me back 50 years to when I was on the research faculty of NYU, and analyzed this kind of stuff for my daily bread. With the right kinds of data collection, there a quite a few different multivariate statistical analyses that can be undertaken which might provide some insights, but not necessarily any concrete answers to the questions of interest. I won’t belabor the statistical aspects.

    I will point out that there’s probably different experiences/answers for different people, and their individual life experiences (and consequently not much help for publishers :grin). Anyhow, I’ll share mine.

    I started to read when I was six, and it was always for pleasure. First it was comic books (Scrooge McDuck, and Superman were early favorites — as well as some spooky stuff with skeletons climbing out of graves, and grabbing people — my mom says these would give me nightmares, but she didn’t in any way attempt to influence my choices; the nightmares occurred in their time, and I stopped buying spooky comics :grin). When I was 8, I read my first full length novel, and from then on (as my siblings tell me even now) every week I would run out with my allowance to buy a new book or two.

    In grade school reading didn’t seem all that different from my personal reading. In high school the difference between books devoted to STEM subjects, and everything else began to factor in. The STEM books were mainly a source of homework problems, and reference material — almost never read in the usual sense.

    In college I started out as a dual Physics/English major, and the reading was unbelievably boring, and almost killed my college career. I slowly became aware that I would only work hard if something interested me — otherwise pfttt! If ever there was an experience to turn me off from reading that would have been it. By my senior year I was spending all my time in the computer room, and trying to structure all my course work to involve computer analysis (by then I was a Psych major — lots of statistics yum yum).

    In graduate school (first time for an MS in computer science) most of the books were of the STEM variety, and served as a reference, or a source for missed classes (there were a lot as I was spending almost all my waking hours in a research computer room self teaching myself assembly programming — I had a research assistantship as a computer operator).

    In graduate school (second time 10 years later for an MBA in Economics) the books were more of the to be read variety, but with a new understanding as to how they were to be read — not as information to be regurgitated on an exam, but as a way to understand how to think about things for which there is no “correct” answer.

    All during this time there was a heavy diet of mass market fiction reading — mostly in multi-week “binge” sessions.

    These days I’m retired, and I read 200-250 books per year all mass market fiction — all for fun. As for reading I would guess I’m an outlier. When I visit any of my five siblings (all college-educated), I don’t see much in the way of books lying around — I don’t get the sense that reading is a big part of their lives (though one is writing young adult fantasy novels). My house is loaded with bookshelves with books stacked 3 deep. Thankfully, since the kindle, the physical books have plateaued locally at 1000 (with another 10,000 sitting in storage in New Hampshire).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I love it! A life told in chapters. 🙂

      My epiphany with assigned reading came in high school. It struck me that my reading speed had slowed (highly concerning!), and it hit me that it might have to do with my assigned reading. It wasn’t so much what we were being assigned…it was the type of analysis we were being required to do. It was typically mostly on the particulate level: it didn’t have to do with concepts and ideas and emotions: it was about discrete facts. That’s a bit like learning vocabulary by memorizing the individual letters, and being tested on which letter came before which letter, and what was in the fourth position. 😉

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