A recent Pew Research Center study found the following:
- Americans 18 and older read on average 17 books each year. 19% say they don’t read any books at all. Only 5% say they read more than 50.
- Fewer Americans are reading books now than in 1978.
- 64% of respondents said they find the books they read from recommendations from family members, friends, or co-workers.
- The average reader of e-books read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months; the average non-e-book consumer read an average of 15.
The first bullet above is pretty remarkable. Using 17 books/year with, let’s say, 40 years of reading (above the age of 18), that’s 680 books read in adulthood. That’s a lot.
This got me thinking about how we decide which books to buy and how our decisions on which books to buy adapt with each book that we read. Are we in tune with our changing desires and interests and is our feedback loop from both positive and negative reading experiences, well, accurate and efficient?
Some time ago, I began collecting data on my book reading experiences to allow me to analyze exactly that. Given the Pew study, I figure I’ll share my methodology in hopes it makes sense to someone else. Star ratings such as that on Amazon are certainly helpful, but my hope is to perfectly understand what works for me as to make my decisions on reading material accurate, efficient, and part of a lifelong journey for knowledge and inspiration.
Known Data Elements (Both Categorical and Quantitative)
- Type (Non-Fiction vs Fiction)
- Genre (Thrillers/Suspense, Science/Technology, Current Affairs & Politics, etc.)
- Number of Pages (using hardcover as a standard)
- Date Published
Personal Data Inputs (upon book completion)
- Date Completed
- Readability, Flow, & Structure (RFS) – A score ranging from [0.0, 5.0] subjectively assigned to a book based on ease-of-read and the overall structure of the book.
- Thought-Provoking, Engagement, & Educational Value (TEV) – A score ranging from [0.0, 5.0] subjectively assigned to a book based on how mentally stimulating it was in terms of knowledge and thought.
- Entertainment, Suspense, & Likeability (ESL) – A score ranging from [0.0, 5.0] subjectively assigned to a book based on the entertainment value and overall likeability of the story, characters, and/or information presented.
Those three metrics (RFS, TEV, ESL) allow one to create a overall score for the book. My overall score is a simple sum of the three metrics, divided by the maximum possible score (15.0), and expressed as a percentage (ranging from 0% to 100%). Although I have not yet conducted any correlation studies or categorical analyses using my data (which I have for 42 books starting in Aug 2004), below is a snapshot. As for my next book, it’ll probably be a self-help guide to drop the data obsession. 🙂
|Title||Author||Pages||RFS [0,5]||TEV [0,5]||ESL [0,5]||SCORE [0,100%]|
|A Short History of Nearly Everything||Bill Bryson||560||4.5||5.0||4.5||93%|
|The Alchemist||Paulo Coelho||208||4.5||4.5||4.5||90%|
|Life of Pi||Yann Martel||336||4.5||4.0||4.5||87%|
|Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game||Michael Lewis||288||4.0||4.5||4.0||83%|
|Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life||Dacher Keltner||352||4.0||4.5||3.5||80%|
|The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference||Malcolm Gladwell||288||4.0||4.0||4.0||80%|
|The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century||George Friedman||272||4.0||4.5||3.5||80%|
|Super Freakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance||Steven Levitt; Stephen Dubner||288||4.0||4.0||4.0||80%|
|Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way To Be Smart||Ian Ayres||272||4.0||4.0||4.0||80%|
|The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business & Life||Avinash Dixit; Barry Nalebuff||512||4.0||4.5||3.5||80%|
|The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More||Chris Anderson||256||4.0||4.0||3.5||77%|
|Outliers: The Story of Success||Malcolm Gladwell||309||4.0||4.0||3.5||77%|
|Body of Lies||David Ignatius||352||4.5||3.0||4.0||77%|
|A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail||Bill Bryson||284||3.5||4.0||3.5||73%|
|Kill Alex Cross||James Patterson||464||4.5||2.5||4.0||73%|
|The Increment||David Ignatius||400||4.0||2.5||4.5||73%|
|A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future||Daniel Pink||272||4.0||4.0||3.0||73%|
|Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking||Malcolm Gladwell||288||3.5||4.0||3.0||70%|
|Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel||Michio Kaku||352||3.5||4.0||3.0||70%|
|The Bourne Dominion||Eric van Lustbader||432||3.5||2.5||4.5||70%|
|Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street||William Poundstone||400||3.0||4.0||3.5||70%|
|The Godfather||Mario Puzo||448||3.5||2.5||4.5||70%|
|The Sicilian||Mario Puzo||410||3.5||2.5||4.5||70%|
|The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America||Steven Johnson||272||3.0||4.0||3.0||67%|
|The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives||Leonard Mlodinow||272||3.0||3.5||3.5||67%|
|Cross Fire||James Patterson||432||4.0||1.5||4.5||67%|
|The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement||David Brooks||448||3.5||4.5||2.0||67%|
|The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number||Mario Livio||294||3.0||4.0||2.5||63%|
|Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines||Richard Muller||354||3.0||3.5||3.0||63%|
|The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction||David Orrell||464||3.0||3.5||3.0||63%|
|The Department of Mad Scientists||Michael Belfiore||320||3.0||3.0||3.5||63%|
|For the President’s Eyes Only: Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush||Christopher Andrew||672||3.0||3.5||3.0||63%|
|Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life||Steve Martin||209||4.0||2.0||3.0||60%|
|Science is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science + Society||Adam Bly (Seed Magazine)||368||2.5||3.5||3.0||60%|
|1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus||Charles Mann||480||2.5||3.5||2.5||57%|
|The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time||Mark Haddon||226||3.0||3.0||2.0||53%|
|Group Theory in the Bedroom, and Other Mathematical Diversions||Brian Hayes||288||2.0||3.5||2.0||50%|
|Euclid in the Rainforest: Discovering Universal Truth in Logic and Math||Joseph Mazur||352||2.0||3.0||2.5||50%|
|This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession||Daniel Levitin||320||2.5||3.0||1.5||47%|