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Originally published Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 7:00 PM

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Lit Life

Who buys books? 40-year-old women and others

Bowker, a global firm that tracks people's book-buying habits, reports some interesting statistics about book-buying in the U.S. Plus: A list of Seattle literary events in September.

Seattle Times book editor

Lit life |

Your Lit Life correspondent took time off in August to take her son to a college in the Midwest, and on the trip conducted surreptitious surveillance on travelers' reading habits. Plane passengers were reading the usual help-me-forget-I'm-wedged-in-here-like-a-sardine thrillers, but others were toting hefty biographies. Others were ingesting their books on e-readers, so I couldn't tell what they were reading. Darn.

When I arrived back at work, along with 2,000 e-mails and about that many incoming books, I got a report from Bowker, a global firm that tracks people's book-buying habits. Here are some of the more interesting bits from 2009:

More than 40 percent of Americans over the age of 13 purchased a book; the average age of the American book buyer is 42.

Women make 64 percent of all book purchases, even among detective stories and thrillers, where they buy more than 60 percent of that genre.

Thirty two percent of the books purchased in 2009 were from households earning less than $32,000 annually. A fifth of those sales were for children's books.

The biggest nonfiction genre is biography and autobiography.

Moving on to fall in Seattle, some notable book events are a-borning:

Sept. 16-17: Five authors — Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jane Smiley, Josie Brown, Eileen Goudge, Joshilyn Jackson and Tatjana Soli — come through to raise money for worthy causes. At 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16, the five will appear at a benefit for the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation at Bainbridge Performing Arts, 200 Madison Ave. N., Bainbridge Island. Ticket price is $50 (206-390-1989 or betweenthepagesevents.org). At 9 a.m. Sept. 17, they will appear at a "Books Over Breakfast" benefit for the Mona Foundation at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Seattle. Tickets are $50 (206-390-1989 or www.women-united.org).

Sept. 18-19: The second annual Esoteric Book Conference will take place at Seattle Center (Fidalgo and Shaw rooms). Speakers from four countries (U.K., Australia, Brazil, U.S.) will discuss Western esotericism, which "encompasses spirituality, mysticism, alchemy, theosophy, occultism, philosophy, history of ideas, mythology, art, music and books," according to conference organizer William Kiesel. Tickets are $50-$120, but there's a free bookfair attached (www.esotericbookconference.com).

Sept. 19, 21: Children's author Cornelia Funke, author of "The Thief Lord" and "Inkheart," will participate in a "theatrical storytelling event" focusing on her new book "Reckless." This is one of only four stops Funke is making in the U.S. (1:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at Seattle's Showbox Theater). Two tickets are free with a purchase of "Reckless." Sponsored by the University Book Store (206-634-3400 or www.ubookstore.com). On Sept. 21, the entertaining Eoin Colfer comes through to promote the seventh Artemis Fowl book, "The Atlantis Complex." This free event begins at 6:30 p.m. at Eckstein Middle School, 3003 N.E. 75th St., Seattle. Sponsored by the University Book Store.

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or mgwinn@seattletimes.com. Mary Ann Gwinn appears on Classical KING-FM's Arts Channel at www.king.org/pages/7598353

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