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Is reading a niche hobby?

(48 Posts)
UnquietDad Mon 17-Sep-07 00:09:05

Not a nice hobby, a niche hobby.

Just following on, really, from my little bitching session about Meg Mathews and thinking of other slebs like Posh who seem proud not to be "readers".

Is it?

I suppose it's odd to think so when just about everyone you know reads books for pleasure. 95% of my friends read, and not just now and then, but often. They have packed and heaving bookshelves. If I walk into a house with no books, I feel it looks weird.

Some people actually pack ALL their books away so that they look more "tidy". I find this completely weirdo-shit behaviour.

But when you think about it, even the bestselling book this year (and I think we all know what that is) will probably top about 6 million copies. That's just a tenth of the UK population. Even assuming 2 people read every copy, that still means 80% of the country is immune to JK Rowling. And most writers dream of her sales.

Meanwhile, a TV programme which gets 6 million viewers - say "Casualty" or "New Tricks" - is thought to be doing quite well. Not amazingly, brilliantly, slack-jaw-with-wonderment well, but just quite well.

For a book to get a tenth of the sales of the last HP - 600,000 in hardback - would be beyond the dreams of avarice for most writers of popular fiction. That's just 1% of the UK population. Most writers sell a couple of thousand copies, sometimes fewer. Have a look at this article about the current Booker faves.

I suppose my question is, if you enjoy reading and socialise mainly with people who also do, does it skew your impressions of how popular it actually is? Is it, in fact, a minority pursuit?

I am ignorant of the vagaries of fashion, but actually quite proud of the fact - maybe some people who live and breathe fashion and know all the designer names, etc., would be as snotty towards me because of that as I am towards them for "not reading". I don't know.

Pan Mon 17-Sep-07 00:17:43

Catchy OP, UQD!!

I do suspect you are right. Reading takes time and reflection..not resources and quality that is exactly encouraged these days.

I read much less than I used to, but I wouldn't brag about that, as if a badge of honour.

UnquietDad Mon 17-Sep-07 00:18:31

I do too, and I feel very bad about the mounting piles of books!

Alambil Mon 17-Sep-07 00:21:07

I think it is quite a "minority" thing to do although I love reading - I have read over 10 books in the last few months (post my English degree in which I read shed-loads!)

I don't know why - maybe people don't have / make time to sit and unwind, maybe it is "boring" to a lot of people - I think it takes a certain imaginative person to be able to be absorbed into the storyline, as if you are there with the protagonists.

Personally, I only read HP due to uni - otherwise, I would not have contributed to Rowlings sale profits (hated the books and most were charity-shop bought)

I don't know what particular genre I'm fond of - chic lit at the mo, because my brain is on post-degree-strike! Usually I can go from African authors (Disgrace, Jack Mapanje's poetry) to Irish literature to USA / English "popular fiction" types with a lot in between including the classics. Maybe my vast enjoyment of genres comes from my degree - I doubt I'd have read Disgrace without it being on the lecture list, but I am glad I did.

I think reading and being in a social group that reads does skew your perspective though - how can it not? I must admit though, I was shocked to see Wild Swans on my son's nursery-pals parents shelf (not sure why though)

NappiesGalore Mon 17-Sep-07 00:21:32

thats sad.

i read MUCH less than i used to and tha makes me sad. reading enriches your life and experience of it. i miss it.

perhaps i should give up mn for a montha nd read a few books??? (half joking)

UnquietDad Mon 17-Sep-07 00:22:45

I have only read the first 1.5 books of the HP series. (Yes, 1.5 - I gave up in the middle of book 2.) Only used that as an example because I wnaed to compare the highest "rated" book with the equivalent TV ratings.

Gingerbear Mon 17-Sep-07 00:23:15

You must be right, sadly.
I used to read heaps before I had DD. Even less now DS is here. I could make time - instead of mumsnetting I could read. I have lots of books - I still love to buy them and DD and I frequent bookshops often, but I usually end up with a Roald Dahl or Enid Blyton to read rather than a grown up book of an evening.

Pan Mon 17-Sep-07 00:23:20

Disgrace! You are the only other person I 'know' to have read this! Dark, multi-layered, and utterly fab.

NappiesGalore Mon 17-Sep-07 00:24:22

ive got a new alan bennett novel about reading. about the queen discovering reading at a mobile library which visits the palace once a week for the staff. is really good. and interesting to you, given that you are thinking about this...

TellusMater Mon 17-Sep-07 00:26:30

What is the circulation for Heat magazine? hmm

There's reading and there's reading. The Booker shortlist isn't for everyone. I think reading 'literary novels' is a niche hobby.

And you can't compare book sales with TV viewing figures really can you? If I want to watch a television programme, I can choose from, what, 20-odd choices on freeview. If I want to read a book, I have hundreds of choices in my house alone (and that's just the ones I haven't got round to reading yet...), and more than I could ever read in my local Waterstones.

And I've never read Harry Potter...blush

Alambil Mon 17-Sep-07 00:26:48

Isn't it fabulous, Pan... very dark though

There are similar stories like that (we studied either one or two others in comparrison - would you like the titles?)

UnquietDad Mon 17-Sep-07 00:26:57

Have there been any good books written about Reading?

UnquietDad Mon 17-Sep-07 00:29:22

TM - I'm not just talking about "literary" reading. I read widely - literary, commercial, genre, you name it.

I think comparing 20-odd channels with hundreds of books is misleading. Surely fairer to compare hundreds of books against the hundreds of programmes available on those 20-odd channels.

Pan Mon 17-Sep-07 00:30:17

I do listen to R4 plays/series these days...you can absorb the vocab/diction/ideas/characters whilst also engaged in something else....not ideal I know.

Pan Mon 17-Sep-07 00:32:23

Give me titles?

I found it sparse and a bit depressing..and a desire to shake her out of her 'fate'..an indictment ofall that went on, and still does it seems..

go on..

TellusMater Mon 17-Sep-07 00:33:35

What I meant is that I don't think reading in itself is a niche hobby (Heat magazine etc). But reading certain types of books is.

Anyway - my point is still that there are far more books available to read than there are television programmes to watch. Orders of magnitude more. You have hundreds of books. I have hundreds of books. I bet only a smallish proportion of them overlap. Whereas our televisions show the same old same old.

UnquietDad Mon 17-Sep-07 00:34:37

Is reading Heat magazine actually reading, or is it more looking at the pictures?

Pan Mon 17-Sep-07 00:34:49

UQD - Iactually clicked on that link thinking...surely not...grin

Niecie Mon 17-Sep-07 00:34:49

Most people I know read and as a family we read a lot, books, magazines and newspapers. I can't imagine that anybody wouldn't want to.

I would also say that it was fashionable to read. Look at the high street these days. When I was a child there was one bookshop tucked away at the top of town and now there are two large bookshops in the centre of town. And everybody has heard of Amazon. First place I look for books sometimes. OK some of the stuff in them is rubbish but people are still reading it which can only be a good thing.

Don't forget that a lot of people buy books second hand - my DH for one is always buying books from ebay which won't register on any bestseller count. And of course there are also the libraries which are still very popular.

I know what you mean about houses with no books on display - just plain weird - like the household has been wiped clean of a large clue about the sort of people that live there. I have one friend whose house is like that and which is also freakishly tidy and it feels like a holiday home!

By the way I am re-reading HP with DS1 at the moment, the first one, and it is a completely different feel to it than the last one - I had forgotten. Much more childish. The books kind of grew up with HP himself - the last one was quite dark and I wouldn't let DS read that one even if he was able to (he's only just 7). I am not ususally into those sort of books but I actually quite enjoyed them. Sorry!

TellusMater Mon 17-Sep-07 00:35:37

You have a point...

Alambil Mon 17-Sep-07 00:35:56

Ok, I'll dig them out tomorrow - they are in a box in my bedroom at the mo whilst I buy a new bookshelf!

Off topic but my dad just got the new Sue Townsend book - Queen Camilla - sounds hilarious!

UnquietDad Mon 17-Sep-07 00:38:12

Good point about second-hand, although in my experience people who read will buy books new in hardback, new in paperback, second-hand, from remainder shops, be given them new as gifts... i.e. they get them from all over.

Interesting about libraries too - their Most Borrowed lists make fascinating reading and are totally at odds (apart from three or four Usual Suspects) with the bookshop bestseller lists.

Niecie Mon 17-Sep-07 00:45:35

Libraries didn't used to be very up to date with the latest releases which probably explains the different bestsellers/most borrowed lists. However, our library now has a 'fast back' system where they have several copies of the latest stuff, particularly the Richard and Judy choices and sometimes the more serious book award nominees. These you can borrow for a shorter period of time with no renewal allowed, I suppose so they have a quick turnover and more people can read the new stuff. Seems to be popular too.

It is true though - those people I know with small children do read less than they used to. But they are still reading and wouldn't be without a book on the go.

spottyshoes Mon 17-Sep-07 00:47:28

Nice thread! I for one am guilted into now going to bed to read. In my prime I could easily sink a book a day (unless a wilbur smith etc which may have taken 2) and have done since i was in primary school. Whilst pregnant I really upped my intake but post natal I am embarrassed to say that I have several unread and my library card is reserved for wooden anti drool or cloth type books. *hangs head in shame*.
Need to make more of an effort and also finish manuscripts that with hopefully make me the next JK.....

pollywollydoodle Mon 17-Sep-07 00:50:19

how do borrowing rates from libraries compare with sales of books?I have heaving shelves but also get loads from the library partic thrillers (which i'm unlikely to read again) and richard and judy/booker books (because occasionally they live up to the hype but often don't and i don't feel guilty if i just put them back on the pile)
I'm also a great fan of second hand books....is that like watching reruns on tv?

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