There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?
I’m not so sure what to think of this statistic. I think I agree with the writer of this article that it’s pretty much meaningless without context. I mean, you could look at it in the glass-half-empty way most people are that 25% of the population didn’t read a book for pleasure last year, or in the glass-half-full way that 75% of the population did read a book for pleasure last year. That’s a lot. And I bet it’s a higher percentage than the turn of the twentieth century when a good chunk of the population was working fifteen-hour days, six days a week just to survive.
At any rate–on to the question. I wrote last week about how everyone in my family loves to read, whereas my wife, who also loves to read, had the opposite experience. Her mother, especially, hates books. My wife actually had to hide books from her when she was growing up. I don’t know why. She reads magazines and Web sites, just not books.
What I have noticed though, is that there is a definite anti-intellectual sentiment among the upper middle class in Southern California. We were informed by my mother-in-law that her friends consider us odd because of our choice in coffee-table books. First, because they’ve actually been read, and second because they’re an historical atlas of Europe and an illustrated guide to the coats of arms of the European royal families. We’ve also been chastised for having conversations about the Latin dative and Bach harmonies in front of others because they might not think we’re fun people.
Fortunately, we have a large circle of friends all over the country who all love to read. We swap books to the point where we don’t remember who owns what, and having to exchange books works just fine as an excuse to hop on a plane for a visit.