I’ll read anything if it’s great. A romance novel, or a soldier’s tale; a book about Zsa Zsa Gabor, or one about Obama. I know what kinds of books dorky, urban-literary type of guys are supposed to be reading–those by Jonathan Safran Foer, and things titled Introduction to Banjo–but I hate most of that stuff; I don’t usually follow stereotypes. I’m continually surprised by how many people think in that sort of shorthand, though.
The other day, for example, someone said to me that most of the people who read Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise, were men. (Nate is one of my agency’s clients.) It was a woman saying this, and she had read the book. Despite that, she was dividing the world into “big ideas” to read by men, and “great stories” that would be read by women. Not only is this sexist, it’s pure speculation. No one has any idea who bought and read Silver’s book. We can see from looking at Amazon that people who bought his book also bought other big idea books, but we don’t know anything about his readers beyond what else they might have read.
Despite this, I still hear smart people say, when reading proposals, “That’s a young person’s topic and young people don’t buy books.” Now, we can find out if a topic tends to sell books or not, but we don’t know if its readers are old or young. Still, however, this is a widely held assumption: younger people don’t buy books. That’s why the most interesting thing I’ve read this week is a report from Pew Research on the reading habits of young people. The results go against that common wisdom. Millennials are reading more books than other age groups, lagging behind older generations on ebook adoption, and looking for information they know you can’t find for free on the internet. The lesson here is, never judge a book by its cover, but also never judge a book by the kind of person you think might be reading it. Because you have no idea. Continue reading