When it comes to reading, bookkeepers top the league

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The Independent Online

Perhaps it's the relief from hours spent scrutinising columns of figures but accountants are among the keenest readers in the country, a survey published yesterday shows.

Perhaps it's the relief from hours spent scrutinising columns of figures but accountants are among the keenest readers in the country, a survey published yesterday shows.

Bookkeepers spend more of their time, an average of just over five hours a week, buried in a work of fiction than many professions more naturally associated with the written word.

The survey, which coincides with World Book Day, found that members of the clergy read for an average of two hours and forty minutes a week, putting them at the bottom of the list for the amount of time that people from various professions spend reading.

Secretaries came second in the survey with just under five hours reading time per week, followed by MPs. Journalists came fourth, taxi drivers were fifth, lawyers sixth, and teachers and chefs joint seventh.

Accountants also defy their reputation for being staid by reading more humorous books than any other group.

Kieran Poynter, UK chairman of accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said: "This just goes to show that you shouldn't believe everything you read about the reputation of accountants.

"The job can be a serious one, but the people who do it are just like those in any other profession. They come from all walks of life and have a wide range of interests. Long may it continue."

The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev Richard Harries, said clergymen did not have the time for off-duty reading and spent most of their time studying theological books.

"Clergy need to keep reading in order to do their job and to remain alert theologically," he said. "This might count as work but for many of them it is also a pleasure. Total relaxed reading, however, is rare because of the business of the life."

The survey of 1,600 people disclosed some interesting trivia. J R R Tolkien was the favourite choice of members of the clergy. Politicians chose far more biographies and history books than the others questioned, while avoiding entirely self-help or mind, body and spirit books. Their current favourites include the autobiography of the former speaker Betty Boothroyd and Roy Jenkins' biography of Asquith. Most of their reading is done in bed.

Journalists and taxi-drivers were the only occupational groups not to choose either The Lord of the Rings or Pride and Prejudice as their favourite novels. Journalists preferred Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude while taxi drivers opted for Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. Taxi drivers also read more self-help books than anyone else questioned and spend the most time reading at work - presumably at the cab rank rather than actually driving.

Most people questioned did their reading in bed, with teachers topping the list, although accountants spent more time reading on the way to work than anyone else. Nearly a quarter of all those questioned read for six hours a week.

A Unesco initiative, World Book Day is the world's biggest celebration of books and reading and will be marked by numerous events in the UK today and in the rest of the world on 23 April, Shakespeare's birthday. Publishers and booksellers in Britain chose the first Thursday in March because 23 April often falls during school Easter holidays.

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