Straw poll

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A recent article from the BBC claims that, on average, British book owners have read only half the books they actually possess.

Intrigued by this suggestion, and conscious of the many titles I have not yet got around to, I conducted an impromptu sample of a few shelves in my own collection, during which I became aware of some interesting variations in the data.

Fiction (3 shelves) (67 total):

  • Read more than once:  55
  • Read once only:  9
  • Partly read:  1
  • Not read at all:  2

Science (2 shelves) (45 total):

  • Read more than once:  8
  • Read once only:  26
  • Partly read:  7
  • Not read at all:  4

History and archaeology (3 shelves) (71 total):

  • Read more than once:  20
  • Read once only:  33
  • Partly read:  9
  • Not read at all:  9

I’ve no reason to think that this isn’t representative of the rest of the collection, and certainly the fiction shelves are noticeably shabbier than the non-fiction, even though I don’t keep a book unless there’s a high probability that I will want to read or re-read it.

Anyone else done a count?

Original news story here.

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4 responses »

  1. I must admit that without conducting a thorough survey I’m closer to the BBC average, but not by much. I have books I bought donkey’s years ago that I’ve never got round to reading – but perhaps their time will come.
    Cheers, Alen

  2. Last time I checked, I had something terrible like 50 books in my loosely defined ‘to read’ pile (it’s more than just a pile), plus a list of more than that again in a virtual, unpurchased subsidiary pile. I’ve no idea what percentage that is of my bookshelves, but trying to move house is making me think that it’s probably not a very high number.

    • Yes, as a heap that’s quite imposing! I don’t think my unreads add up to 50 but the virtual pile is terrifying. House moving is the moment when I forget about literary merit and think only in terms of avoirdupois, so I trust you have enough boxes. 🙂

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