Do you know which cities are the most “well-read” in Britain and America?
Earlier this year Amazon conducted their third annual survey to discover which city is the national reading champion.
Oddly enough I once spent an afternoon in the American winner – Alexandria, Virginia. It is about five miles from the centre of Washington on the other side of the Potomac river. Wikipedia says it has a population of about 150,000 most of whom are professionals working in government departments. I remember pleasant shops, my first sighting of a cigar store Indian – a larger than life wooden statue advertising a tobacconist – and my first taste of hush puppies – not shoes, but deep fried, corn battered I’m-not-sure-what, mixed vegetables I think. The only other thing I know about Alexandria is that throughout the American Civil War it was always in the hands of the Southern states while the government of the Northern States was just across the river.
I’ve never been to the British winner Doncaster in South Yorkshire, population just over 300,000. It has a railway station, a racecourse and is the home of a member of One Direction. (Incidentally two other Yorkshire town came second and third in the well-read stakes – Barnsley and Pontefract.) Knoxville, Tennessee made the biggest leap jumping from 12th place to the number two US position.
And what are people reading? Well, the survey relates to 2012 – the year of Fifty Shades of Grey. Doncaster residents apparently have a big appetite for romance and erotica, as do the good folk of Knoxville. Gone Girl was the biggest seller in Alexandria and, lower down the list, the people of Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard, are more interested in business books. However, science fiction sells very well in Dunfermline in Fife.
Sources of Information
Press Release Amazon Media Centre
Grub Street article by Andrew Taylor in The Author Autumn 2013
My own faulty memory
photo credit: WordShore via photopin cc