Incidental Reading – The Results Are In!

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I was curious how much reading I do every week that is NOT books. As I mentioned in last week’s post, every time I see print, I can’t help but read it. How much of my reading is “unconscious”? So I tracked everything I read for a week, except for things I took in with a glance, like signs. Here’s the tally!

Sunday May 11 (busy making Mother’s Day dinner)

1 recipe, 2 food packages, 1 iPad app (downloaded e-book from library), documents for volunteer job (forms)

Monday May 12

1 recipe, skating schedule, 6 documents for volunteer job (reports and budgets)

Tuesday May 13

GoodReads updates, 5 advertising flyers, 3 newspaper articles online (The Globe and Mail and The Guardian), 2 web site articles, Exclaim magazine cover to cover (free monthly music mag), browsed through Architectural Digest at bedtime

Wednesday May 14

1 newspaper article online, personal budget

Thursday May 15

Menu at restaurant, printed placemat, local weekly “alternative” newspaper The Coast cover to cover

Friday May 16

1 newspaper article online, 1 Facebook check, rest of Architectural Digest issue

Saturday May 17

News feed on monitor at mall food court (addictive! could not look away!), lots of book jackets while choosing a gift book, the back of a DVD I watched (Portlandia Season 1)

Other (throughout week): calendars, price tags, receipts, menu plan, grocery lists, food labels, clothing labels

The real time-consumers were:

One Week of Personal Email:

  • Main account 66 (43 read) – 2 personal, 21 for volunteer job, 43 from mailing lists
  • Secondary account, used for interacting with commercial web sites – 44, all from businesses (2 read – both related to an online shopping transaction)
  • Blog email account – 1 (new subscriber!)
  • Personal emails written or replied 12 – 1 personal and 11 for volunteer job

One Week of Blog Reading

  • Blog Posts Received (subscribed) 109
  • Blog Posts Read 69

OK, now on to work. For a full-time work week:

  • Work emails received 113 (94 read)
  • Work emails written/replied 50
  • Work documents consulted, read, revised or written 18

None of those three items is really “incidental” because they were significant work communication!

Personal Reading at Work at the Library during my authorized breaks, of course 😉

  • WordPress visits 2 (checked for comments on my blog and read 1 post)
  • Newspaper website visits: 2 (read 2 articles)
  • Other web site visits: 2 (personal research)
  • Personal texts received: 2, sent 1
  • Browsed through travel books about London in the midst of “weeding” the travel section
  • Previewed 2 books that came in on hold for me (read book jackets and a couple of pages)

So that was a week’s worth of non-book reading, and I’d say that’s a typical week.

As for books? I finished two books I had been reading – biographies of Marc Bolan and Jim Henson – and started a novel to round out the week!

Would your week in reading be anything like this?

It really gave me pause when I thought about how many adults don’t read well and find it hard to function with print.






  1. Do you have time for anything else? that’s a lot of reading x

  2. Wow. I’m all read out, having read this list.

    I don’t read as many blogs but get more work emails. I read more recipes as I like to look for inspiration. I also read non-fiction on-line – newspaper articles, opinion pieces, Wikipedia and such like entries on something of interest (eg tv show or actor bio) which leads to other pieces (eg on the historical incident or real person on which a show or character was based.) I nearly always have my iPad to hand when watching a DVD or TV show so I can google actors, facts, setting etc etc

  3. Fiona

    The first thing I also thought when I saw your list was, “imagine if you couldn’t read – what a barrier to life…”

    I read fewer blogs, but make up for it reading lots more “phaff” online (newspaper articles, Wikipedia, hours worth of research for topics for school etc.) I spent hours this week reading about Australian politics (again!) but that’s only because this week was a big week with a Federal Budget handed down.

    I get about the same in emails but I hit ‘delete’ on at least 80% of it without reading (it’s not relevant to me.) I only have to reply to a few emails per week.

    One of my big time sucks is the seemingly endless stream of documents for work. I had to supervise Standardised Testing one day and there were 48 pages of instructions for that alone. There are page after page each week of meeting minutes, agendas, student history (we’re writing reports at the moment), medical training notes, curriculum docs to consult etc. Oh and of course…the kids’ work! I corrected 215 books last week with whatever they did in class that week. I like to think the school docs are one reason I don’t keep up with reading books, but…excuses 🙂

    • I was surprised that I don’t actually spend all my time on work docs – I spend a lot more time talking to people! If I had to mark student work, I’m not sure I’d want to spend personal time reading, either. I definitely go on rampages of political reading/research when there are big political stories in the news. Probably the most time I spend online is if I am researching a big new purchase, like a car!

  4. Thanks for spending time reading the blogs of others and offering comments. I usually try to compartmentalize and read/ comment when I am not writing. Otherwise, my wife may divorce me. I have shared with a couple of folks, what they write about in their blogs is more topical and important than what most of the paid editorialists who tend to cover only the game of “gotcha politics.” So, I usually find much more substance on the bloggers sites, than what I can find in our papers. With that said, there are some excellent editorialists whom I very much enjoy reading. They make up for the others who write the same thing every week.

    • Ha, my spouse and I share a home office and we’re often on our computers or iPads side by side most of the evening or weekends! (I don’t think we could do income-producing work at home in the same office though – one of us is more distractible than the other!)

      I agree that I find good content both in blogs and editorials, and that blogs are often less deliberately provocative.

  5. I keep trying to leave comments, but am having trouble, but I’ll keep trying. 🙂
    I am impressed you were able to keep track of all this incidental reading. I don’t think I could ever be that aware and diligent.

  6. Very interesting! I “read” about 10-15 blog posts a day, but some of them are a quick skim (like a recipe for mushroom ravoli – I know I’ll never make it, so I read the intro and skipped the rest). Work emails are also a big part of my daily reading. I easily get 50+ emails a day, and I probably respond to a quarter of those, plus writing my own to others. And whenever I go to the grocery store, I read pretty much every label to make sure it’s vegetarian if it’s for me, and to avoid things like artificial flavors, sweeteners, etc.

    I read a bumper sticker on the way home today that stated, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Seems very appropriate for this post 🙂 And reminds me of exactly what you said – daily life must have an added layer of difficulty for those who don’t read well!

    • I found out that I read about 10 blog posts a day, and as you say, some are short or skimmable. I used to read all the food labels but I buy the same stuff most of the time and only check the new items now! This exercise was a good reminder of how pervasive reading is throughout the whole day, and not just when we pick up a book.

  7. OK I know you avoid reddit but you have to check out this subreddit People post there about things just like this…compiled data. You are the best data compiler person I know (and how you can read so much in a day is AMAZING!).

    • Thanks, April, and you know I will check out that link! You should see Rom’s stats on his Magic the Gathering card collection. It’s as bad as baseball stats!

  8. That’s a lot of reading (and a lot of data capture). I read a lot, (on the Internet) on a lot of subjects – how else can you win the family quiz at Christmas!!? 😉
    I go through stages of targeting my reading, right now it’s food labels.

    My personal texts read and sent is a huge number as my daughters and husband never stop sending them. Perhaps I should work out how many hours I spend on this!

    • I think I need to institute an annual quiz, too! I have never been successful at getting Rom and Link to text me about anything so my cell phone is pretty much emergencies-only!

  9. We have a brilliant book that you would like called ‘Information is Beautiful’ by David McCandlless (although I secretly think it might have been compiled by you under a pen name). The info is given in picture / diagram form but when I start reading it I am engrossed just like on your blog.

    It is frightening how much we read and write especially to do with blogging / texting / emails and social sites. I blog but don’t text and do more emailing at work. I read food labels when shopping and I still like a long chat on the phone.

    • Thanks, Viv – I saw that book once in a book store and forgot about it until now – it was amazing! Perhaps I created it in an alternate life in which I had photography skills 🙂

      Just this week I was thinking I shouldn’t comment on the “youth of today” and their texting and social media – when I was a teenager I spent hours on the phone (literally 3 hour conversations) and hours and hours watching mindless TV shows!

      • Ha Ha…I could easily get addicted to Facebook if I were younger…we had to reprimand a young person at work for constantly being on Facebook when they should have been working!

  10. It’s amazing how much we read without noticing. I know I don’t count it as “reading”, but I pick and choose stories from the Star and the Huffington post online and we keep copies of MacLean’s in the bathrooms that manage to get finished each week before the next one comes.

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