Sobering Statistics About Readers Today

This is a web site for ‘Serious Readers.’ We are, it seems, an endangered species or anachronism (can you say “Dinosaur”?). Claire Belinski in ‘Is America Doomed, Part III‘ cited’s ‘Reading Books Is In Decline‘ for the following figures:

33% of high school graduates never read another book the rest of their lives and 42% of college grads never read another book after college. 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years and 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

Ouch. Do you find these statistics believable? Why or why not?

Five more statistic-laden articles about reading in the US and beyond can found after the jump, to include one that notes the effect of the Harry Potter book releases on children’s book sales in any given year.

How Many Books Does the Average American Read? (

  • Women (75%) read more than men (73%)

  • The younger people are the more they read18-29: 84%30-49: 74%50-64: 71%and only 67% of 65+ years reported they have read a book

  • The higher the education, the more people read (not really surprising, 92% of College graduates said they have read a book in the past year compared to 40% of adults with an education less than high school)

  • White people read more than black people who read more than Hispanics

  • The more you learn (read) the more you earn – The statistic shows a clear relationship between the average salary and the number of books someone reads

  • Printed books are still the by far the first choice when it comes to reading – take a look at the statistics below

Who Doesn’t Read Books in America? (

Although the differences are less pronounced, non-book reading does vary by gender, age and community type.

The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months is higher today than it was nearly a decade ago – though there has been some fluctuation over this time period. Today, 27% of adults say they have not read any books in the past year, up from 19% in 2011, but identical to the share who said this in 2015.

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, we found that Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.

However, a 2015 survey found that some of these same demographic groups acknowledged the importance of libraries in their communities and for their families: Black and Hispanic adults, those in lower-income households and adults ages 30 and older were more likely to say that their local libraries serve them and their families “very well.”

How Many Books Did the Average American Read in the Last Year? (

According to Pew Research, there has been a moderate increase of Americans who listen to audiobooks, from 14 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2018. Which means that nearly one in five Americans now listen to audiobooks —with 29 percent of readers now reading some combination of both print and digital books, versus 39 percent who read only physical books. 

The Decline of the American Book Lover (The Atlantic, 2014)


Book and Reading Statistics (

I feel like I’m preaching to the choir, telling this site’s readers how good reading is for you. We’ve already talked about the ways reading makes you smarter, but does it make you happier?

Adults who read for 30 minutes a week reported feeling 20% more satisfied with their lives in the latest Quick Reads study. 40% of people in that same study claimed “lack of time” was the main reason they didn’t read, but the first study quoted in this article shows us that people in the U.S. spend 10 times more time watching TV than reading.

One study showed reading reduces stress by 68 percent, more so than listening to music, having a cup of tea, or taking a walk.

So if you’re feeling stressed or dissatisfied, consider putting down the remote and picking up a book instead.

As a book nerd whose second language is Excel, I loved compiling these reading statistics, but my favorite thing about it was seeing the CEO of the UK’s Publishing Association attribute a noticeable dip in children’s book sales to the lack of a Harry Potter release that year.


  1. Mr. Granger,

    I’ll admit that first poll listed is an eye catcher, and maybe not in a good way. I can see how even a non-reader could take one look at that and get a little worried, especially if they’re a parent of a book person, and are invested in making sure their kids have all the opportunities they may never have gotten.

    The good news is, based on a comparison between the first poll and the others, I think the initial one is over-exaggerating things a bit. I’m much more inclined to trust the Pew Poll, which says that the level of readers tends to fluctuate over the years.

    From a big picture perspective, my thinking is that C.S. Lewis was onto something when he said that readers can be divided into the Many and the Few. The Many, for whatever reasons, are those souls who just can’t find a way into the reading life. For the Few, reading isn’t something they set their watches by, as much as their entire lives. Reading for the Few is something that encompasses all of existence. Those are the best words that describe the relation bookworms have to texts. With this in mind, is it any wonder the Many have such a difficult time understanding where the Few are coming from?

    What I’m about say is an idea I’ve expressed elsewhere, yet it’s one of those concepts that bears repeating. Thanks to Lewis, my basic take is that serious reading has always been an activity of the Few, rather than the Many. It’s also just possible that we have the former camp to thank for just how much of the past has still been preserved up to the present moment. With that in mind, nothing I’ve seen here has me worried that the readers of the world are truly going anywhere.

    Instead, I find myself growing curious about how reading and the Few look like to the Many who don’t open a book as often. Is there a way of thinking, and hence of living, that separates a non-reader from a bookworm? What about those individuals that make a transition from the non-reading to bibliophile camp? What kind of perceptions or worldviews are we dealing with when we encounter such individuals? It’s just a topic that’s sort of grown in importance for me, really. I don’t know if that makes me sound Arthur Weasley-ish or not. Still, for better or worse, there it is.

  2. I totally believe that reading can help people learn how to react constructively to situations they have not yet been exposed to. That includes social/emotional. I have heard people say they will not read fiction because it is a waste of time and yet these same persons tend to be more callous and self-involved. Libraries are being undermined by computers and web searches. Book stores are not able to compete with online ordering. TV is definitely a distraction with the majority of the content being without merit. Laziness learned from parents is usually passed on to later generations. It is the few individuals that constantly seek knowledge, stimulation and understanding that will move to print to overcome physical reach.

  3. I grew up functionally illiterate. I lived on the edge of the wilderness in Idaho and couldn’t sit still long enough to learn to read. Fortunately in my early twenties I finally learned and what a joyful infection it has been. I lead a very busy life, but thanks to the addition of audio books I still manage to read 50 to 100 books per year. Yesterday my wife and I were in our local bookstore and I found myself frustrated by the hundreds of titles that called for my attention that I will likely never have time to read. Reading is such an beautiful and rich window into so much of life that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience. Keep the libraries, bookstores and audio site open!!!!

  4. As an educator, pastor, and chaplain I find that reading and critical thinking go hand and hand. The statistics are not surprising to me but are a reminder that the few have always been a ruling class of sorts. I remember when I taught middle school World History and taught my students that the “Nobles” in Medieval Europe were among the most literate people in Europe. Even more literate than the Monarchs and ruling families. The same was true among all other civilizations. I agree with most of the other post here and even when I disagree I find that the people here are probably able to engage in a meaningful dialogue because they are readers.

  5. Steve Carkner says

    Not sure I read this right but from the stats quoted:
    42% of college grads never read another book after college.
    92% of College graduates said they have read a book in the past year.

    So can we conclude that approximately 50% of college graduates lie about how much they read? LOL.

  6. Sounds like an accurate reading to me!

    As dishonest as college graduates may be about their reading, the discrepancy says as much about the accuracy and value of this kind of polling. This survey approach is probably only of value for Family Feud.

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