How "Important" is Reading?

I just saw a poll on CNN entitled “How many books do you read per week?”. Currently the results are:

1-2 books 38%
3-4 books 6%
5+ books 3%
0 books 53%

Now, I know the poll isn’t scientific, but as it stands, it’s telling me that over half the population does not read. For some reason, that disturbs me.

I know that there are lots of very intelligent people out there who aren’t into reading, or who only read newspapers/magazines, and who learn a lot more about the world watching the nightly news than the lady over there reading her bosom-baring Harlequin. But I also will admit to a real preference for people who read (it’s a real turn-on to me in the whole “prospective partner” thing).

Is it just me, or do any other people here make (very very very small) value judgements about readers versus nonreaders? I don’t look down on people who don’t read (and I’ve sure as hell dated a lot of people who never picked up a book during our relationship), but I personally feel that reading works the mind in ways that other forms of entertainment don’t, and I think reading should be encouraged, and it just disturbs me that such a large portion of the population doesn’t read.

I’m not talking about kids - just adults…not sure if that makes a difference but I am specifically thinking about my adult peers.

I really hope this doesn’t sound snobby - I just prefer interacting with people who enjoy reading and who can discuss books and authors with me. (And there’s just something sexy about that guy at Starbucks engrossed in the latest Clancy novel :wink: )

It could be that the 53% read a book a month. The statistics are surprising, for I would have expected something along in the 25% or 15% level to not read a book at all. Many people are not into reading, preferring to do something active, watch TV, go out on dates, commune with friends and so on, I guess.

Reading is important if you wanna be a Doper and who wouldn’t wanna be a Doper?
Or date one?

I don’t read books regularly. It isn’t that I don’t like reading, that I don’t think it has any value, or that I don’t have the time. I do enjoy reading.

I am just more interested in the things I do than in most books that I come in contact with. If there is a book I am interested in, then I will certainly read it. I read about half of Kurt Vonnegut’s books during the springtime.

I don’t go out of my way to do intellectually-fullfilling things because most of the time I find about half of the things I do intellectually-fullfilling anyway. I guess if I felt that I was challenging my brain less often, then I would probably be more inclined to pick up a book, but I don’t feel that I am an idiot or anything like that as it stands.

Upon reviewing your OP I realize that I don’t really apply, me being a child, but maybe I gave you a little insight into the mind of the nonreader.

Reading books is overrated, IMHO. Other forms of “reading” are unfairly denigrated when they can be as valuable as book-reading. There is a traditional view that reading books – no matter how trite the content – is somehow intrinsically superior to other forms of consuming information.

Watching television is “reading”. An educational TV program or a well-constructed drama or comedy can be a rich source of information. These things can be as well-crafted, as instructive and as insightful as any written literature.

Cinema can be “read”. The story-telling devices of movie-makers are as valid as the devices used by authors. A well-made movie can be construct as intricate and elegant as a classic work of written fiction and just as worthy of educated discussion.

Further, the accessibility and popularity of these modern forms of “reading” means that the pool of people who can intelligently discuss a particular program or movie can be deeper and richer than the shallower pool that may be the audience of a particular book.

I’m surprised that people read that much. 38% read 1-2 books a week? I read about 10 books a year - that puts me in the zero per week category. But I spend about half of my waking hours reading or writing. I don’t especially enjoy reading as entertainment - for me it’s a way to acquire information. I don’t see how reading is a superior form of entertainment than others.

The reason I put in the disclaimer is that I realize that kids, high schoolers, college students, etc. spend a lot of their time (usually) reading and learning - whether it’s forced or they enjoy it. Heck, my last year of college I took four English courses and I was craving graduation so I could sit down and read a nice, fluffy Grisham novel!

I’m trying to delve a little further into reading as a past-time, a way to fill free hours. You say you do other things that are intellectually-filling, and that’s great - a perfect rebuttal to my viewpoint.

I’m absolutely positive that there are lots of non-readers who do intellectual things, and lots of readers who limit themselves to “beach bag paperbacks” - the former, IMO, will be more well-rounded educationally than the latter. Reading is not JUST about education or JUST about entertainment.

I enjoy going out with friends, just being silly, watching movies (not too much TV) - lots of non-reading activities - just as much as the next person. And sure, as Narrad notes, there are lots of activities that CAN be similar to reading. A well-made documentary series about WW2 can be just as informative as a book about the subject. Conversely, an episode of “Friends” is not any worse than a cheesy romance novel (not that either is bad).

But in my personal experience - the non-readers in my life have never (or very, very rarely) been interested in discussing current events, watching educational TV (documentaries, news specials), or doing things to expand the mind or increase knowledge. OTOH, most of my reader friends all seem to do the above things.

I know it’s horrible to generalize, and I hate that I’m doing it! There’s a difference between smart, and knowledgeable, and intellectual - and none of these qualities can be specifically attributed to readers. Nonetheless, I have to admit that I seem to have more in common, and more intellectually-fulfilling experiences, with people who read than with people who don’t read.

Sorry, I can’t explain it any better than that.

I think surveying per week, as some others have said, leads to some very skewed results. I suppose, on top of other reading, I freely read a book a week. But if I read a book every two weeks, what then? What category am I in?

And 5 books a week? What are they? Horton Hears a Who? C’mon, who has time for 5 novels every week?

But Deborak, the study doesn’t show anything about readers vs. non-readers. It’s only about books. I read a lot, but not books per se.

Those five book a week people are probably lying.

Oh, you’re right - and I wouldn’t take a survey too seriously anyway. I just saw it, and I’ve been hearing for years anyway that reading is being replaced by television and computers and how “bad” this is, and I started wondering about who reads these days and whether less reading/less readers is indicative of anything.

I’ve heard the debate that television is “mindless” entertainment, whereas books are more likely to force the reader to use his/her imagination. I’m also aware of the implication that readers are more “intelligent” than non-readers, but is that really true?

I read less now that I spend my time posting to message boards :smiley: . But I still have to admit that those friends of mine who share many of my more “intellectual” past-times are all readers also, and those who “hate to read” honestly are not interested in these types of activities (not that my friends are representative of the world at large or anything). It’s a little odd that it’s worked out that way - but it has.

And I just WISH that I had time to read 5 books a week. I need a vacation so I can do just that!

I would have to say, I am hard pressed to imagine how I could manage to read 5 NON-TRIVIAL books a week on top of a 40hr job. Assuming each book is around ~ 500 pages, thats 2500 pages a week or about 350 pages a day. I have an average reading speed of 70 pages/hour and that is considered FAST compared to my peers but that is still 5 hours a day of reading. My guess is that a large chunk of the 5 a week crowd are unemployed reading Mills and Boon.

Anyone else find it strangely disturbing that the username of the one who first mentions “not reading regularly” is HoldenCaulfield?

Next, bibliophage will show up and admit to only reading harlequins or something…


I think that reading is very important. You can’t really finction if you don’t know how.

Everyone should read something, magazines, books, newspapers, whatever.

Oh, by the way, I read 1 or more books in a week.

I reads every day, but having to work full-time and care for a child means I usually cannot finish a complete book every week. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks per book. Generally the only uninterrupted reading time I get is just before bed, when I’m tired, which is not the best time. So I think it’s mistaken to judge people by how many books they complete in a certain period of time.

However, I do share your general assessment about the importance of reading and compatibility with other readers.

Some thoughts.

I think that what people read is more important than how much they read. There is a difference between pulp fiction and quality novels which raise important questions of the human condition. Especially important to read are those works which challenge our beliefs; to force us to see the world from a different perspective.

Quality works of nonfiction allow us to understand the totality of our existance; to help us understand the general direction of natural and human history and our place it.

Serious readers understand how little they really know and are not quick to have opinions about all questions; the opinions they do have on a question range from “almost certainly true” to “almost uncertainly false”. They understand that the only certainty is uncertainty. My experience with non-readers is that they are quick with uninformed opinions about everything. Mostly they claim to be one hundred percent certain. They miss all the subtlties. After all, these people get their information from the tube and from other people who get their information from the tube. They reinforce each other’s poorly formed opinions.

It is said that everyone is entitled to their opinion on all questions. I don’t agree. There are areas where I have such serious gaps in my knowledge that an informed opinion is impossible. I know that because I read.

How important is Reading? Very important! It has long been a leading industrial city here, though many factories and buisnesses have closed recently and now many of the crackheads and junkies that have been fleeing NYC are starting to move…
Oh, this thread is about the act of persuing and consuming literature? I thought it was about Reading, PA! Sorry…

Or they’re students, or professors, or editors, or book reviewers, or just people who happen to read fast and often. 3% of the population sounds about right to me.

I possibly read about 1 book per week. It is very important to read books and children ned to also

I’m a speedreader. I can usually read a 500-page, uncomplicated novel in about three/four hours. I’m probably in the five-books-a-week category.
Do I judge people by what they read or don’t read? Yes. In what way do I judge them? I simply assume that anyone who doesn’t read probably won’t be very interesting, to me, as a close friend.
I think that books allow us to take part in the continuing conversation of mankind, and I can’t imagine not wanting to listen to the best minds throughout history. Not trying to insult anyone who doesn’t read- I just can’t fathom it. Total non-comprehension.

I do not read as many books as I used to but I read more now then I ever have before. Because of my work I read many professional publications, review documents, and write a great number of relatively complex documents. I spend a few hours online every day and most of that time is spent doing research.

I too could never understand people who didn’t read but through reading I learned that if there is a sigificant difference in two people’s respective I.Q.'s, communication becomes difficult. :slight_smile:

When I was a child I spent most of my free time reading everything I could get my hands on and my thirst for knowledge was nearly unquenchable. So when people ask me how I know so much about so many different things my answer is simple, it’s “books”.

I love to read and don’t think that using “how many books do you read?” as a measuring tool is fair. With the amount of information I can access online there are days when I probably read the equivalent of 100-200 pages per day.

I disagree with the assertion that watching T.V. or movies is equivalent to reading the printing word. Again, through reading I discovered that there is a marked correlation between the onset of Alzheimers and how much that individual read during their lifetime. The people who read were less likely to develop the disease and the progress of the disease was much slower in the readers.

I’ll conclude by saying that I think that reading is very important no matter what you read. Reading stimulates the mind in ways that other media cannot.