What students are reading

UC Berkeley surveyed what students have been reading over a 20-year period, and the results are interesting. The top books are: 1987 – The Color Purple, 1997 – The Fountainhead, and 2007 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Ayn Rand’s book was actually #2 in 1987 and has disappeared from 2007’s top 10, a list which is rife with J.K. Rowling titles. Fortunately, some oldies-but-goodies have consistently made the grade, including Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The article summarizes the findings this way:

What conclusions can we draw from these admittedly unscientific surveys? Student do manage to read for enjoyment, and they read widely. Best seller lists (and Oprah?) influence their reading, but clearly they have strong wills of their own. Can we explain Madame Bovary, Our Man in Havana, All Quiet on the Western Front, Great Expectations, and The Screwtape Letters as recreational reading among college students? No, but we can be thankful.

Amen to that!

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7 Responses to What students are reading

  1. Andi says:

    Students are reading?? How glorious. I’m printing out the article, blowing it up poster size, and hanging it in my office just as encouragement. Thanks for the heads up.


  2. Dark Orpheus says:

    Ah, darn. No Pratchett on the list?


  3. Charlotte says:

    I well remember that Ayn Rand trend. I was one of the ones reading her in the Eighties. Glad to see students have moved on.


  4. Tara says:

    Interesting lists! Thanks for sharing them. To tell you the truth, I did very little reading for pleasure in college. I was much too busy read biochemisty books and memorizing structures of amino acids. (Seriously.)


  5. I remember reading what was passed along to me in school in addition to books I chose myself. The penguin classic series was extremely popular, and authors like Zola and Tolstoy were passed around and widely enjoyed. Almost everyone could discuss what they liked about Steinbeck and Salinger, Austen and Dickens–but then we read those authors in High School. Reading for pleasure helped us with our advanced math analysis classes and such. It gave us a break and we ended up doing better work overall. Flex.Novels helped a lot while taking logic, philo. and ethics classes, too– Balzac springs to mind as an example I used in class..something from his novel “Cousin Bette”


  6. snackywombat says:

    whoa that’s interesting. in college, was an english major so i was pretty much reading three books at all times. i remember the fountainhead being very in vogue but i ended up reading a lot of milan kundera and isabel allende. funny what speaks to us at different times in life.


  7. Katherine says:

    Its amazing how reading habits change over the years. I shouldn’t be so surprised that there are so many HP titles on the list, though its to be expected.


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