Who reads what?

Out of the blue, David asked me today about what percent of adults actually read books for pleasure.  I just said that I know women read more than men– especially non-fiction– and that I really hoped it was over 50% and that we could probably find some good data on-line.  And, again, the internet comes through with flying colors!

As for me, right on both counts, but definitely interesting to see the data.  First the LA Times has a nice summary of a recent National Endowment of the Arts survey:

Fifty-seven percent of American adults read one or more books not required for work or school in 2012 — that’s 128 million readers.

Some other interesting findings: More women (64%) read than men (45%). The biggest readers are older adults; 65- to 74-year-olds have the highest rate of reading of any age group, with 61% reading at least one book in 2012…

The worst news is for poets: People reading poetry for pleasure has plunged in the last decade, dropping by 45%. Among adults who read books for pleasure, less than 7% now say they read poetry.

Literature overall — from which the NEA excludes nonfiction — has suffered a decline. Adults who read novels, poetry, short fiction and plays have dropped in every age group since 2008.

I got a big kick out of this line in the article:

In its report, the NEA has a few bar graphs demonstrating its findings, but nothing particularly special. On Sept. 30, it will launch an infographic grants initiative at challenge.gov. The NEA will award more than $20,000 to “create interactive visualization tools” that will help make the arts data results “more accessible to the public.”

Love that.  Apparently these lovers of books don’t have a soul among them who can even make a decent chart.  Fortunately, Pew does.  And their 2012 survey brings the charts.  I think this one is the most interesting:

How often people read for different purposes

I’m encouraged that three quarters of Americans are reading for pleasure at least a few times a month.  The disheartening fact is the number of Americans who don’t read at all is growing:

Book reading trends over time

And finally, here’s some interesting demographic breakdowns:

How many books Americans read

Anyway, interesting stuff.  And for the record, I just finished Eleanor and Parkwhich I really, really liked.  I’m definitely in the minority of men in reading novels.  Also, looks like I read approximately 22 books in the past year.  Would’ve been more, but I spent a lot of time on Spillover and Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow plus I’m not giving myself credit for the half of The Better Angels of our Nature I read.

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Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal Photos of the Week:

A solitary puffin lives life on the edge as it stares out at a coastal landscape from its cliff top perch. Christian Schweiger, 42, was just a few feet away as he photographed the moment on the volcanic peninsula of Dyrholaey, in southern Iceland. He said: 'The puffins were busy taking their prey into the nest holes in the turf on the upper edge of the cliffs.'
A solitary puffin lives life on the edge as it stares out at a coastal landscape from its cliff top perch. Christian Schweiger, 42, was just a few feet away as he photographed the moment on the volcanic peninsula of Dyrholaey, in southern Iceland. He said: The puffins were busy taking their prey into the nest holes in the turf on the upper edge of the cliffs.Picture: Christian Schweiger/Solent News

Yet another US health care failure

Here’s a cool health care statistic I’ve never come across before– the number of additional months of life $100 of health spending brings.  Surprise, surprise, our hugely inefficient health care brings us in at the bottom of the OECD pack (via the Atlantic):

The result: Every additional $100 the U.S. spends on healthcare per person translated into a gain of less than half a month of life expectancy. In Germany, the best-performing nation, every additional $100 spent resulted in an additional four months of life…

But overall, the main reason the U.S. lags in longevity is that we spend far less on preventive measures than other countries do, Heymann said. Three-quarters of our healthcare spending goes toward treating chronic problems like diabetes and hypertension, and 45 percent of Americans have a chronic health condition

The better-performing nations in Heymann’s study have worked to reduce poverty, since being poor can worsen health outcomes. They also promote physical activity more aggressively, and they weave more prevention counseling, such as nutritionist appointments, into their medical systems.

There are obvious things the U.S. could be doing better, she says.

“When you put soda machines in high schools, it’s bad for kids’ health. Or when you subsidize corn syrup so that eating high-fructose foods is inexpensive,” she said. “There’s a lot that could be done.”

Ummm, yeah.  The good news, if there is any, is that it’s not exactly rocket science to improve upon this.  The bad news is that we seem to have so little political and social will to actually do so.

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