How does the Washington Post know what you’re going to read and at what age you’ll read it?

Interesting post by one of my favorite novelists, Lev Raphael: “The Washington Post Claims To Know What You Read And When.

In case you decide not to read either Raphael’s post or the Washington Post column he describes, here is Raphael’s executive summary of Michael Dirda’s column:

When you’re young, you love re-reading books or having the same books read to you. Later on you read series and then engage in competitive reading. In college required reading that takes up your time, and once you graduate and box up those books, you only read best sellers.

Finally, as a senior, you have no interest in new books, so you re-read old favorites.

The temptation, of course, is to respond with some snarky rejoinder. But let’s take the description seriously for the moment, and see how it fits with one’s own experience — my own, in my case. Remember that Raphael is rephrasing Dirda’s views, not stating his own. The first sentence is certainly true for me, with the extreme example of Lord of the Ringswhich I read seven times (maybe not all when I was young, depending on your definition of “young”). The second sense is only one-third true for me: yes, I have read a lot of series, but not only whenever “later on” is and certainly not competitively. The third sentence is blatantly false, since required reading took up only a small percentage of my time ion college and since I never read best sellers (except occasionally by accident),. Finally, the last sentence is also clearly false for me: I have plenty of interest in new books, even though I also re-read old favorites.

Sorry, Mr. Dirda. C minus.


Categories: Books