You’ve probably read the apocalyptic stats: 24% of Americans will not read a book this year. 42% of college grads never read another book after college.
It’s not as dire as all that.
According to Pew, the typical American read or listened to 5 books in the past year. The average for all adults was 12 books in the past year.
That means a small number of adults are reading a ton. We call them avid readers, and there are a few things they do differently.
Avid readers read more narrative. Their favorite genres are:
- Historical fiction
- Crime and mystery
- Food and wine
- Biography and autiobiography
- Popular fiction
- Literary fiction
See that third entry above? Avid readers read more cookbooks, which is indicative of the way they approach books in general: avid readers are used to looking at books as the go-to place for high quality info. When they want to find a new recipe an avid reader is much more likely to browse the cookbook section than food.com.
Avid readers are much more likely to visit a bookstore in the first place, compared to the 70% of adults who haven’t been in a bookstore in the past 5 years.
Avid readers are overwhelmingly female (88%). The largest age cohort is 25-44, and avid readers drop off with age. The typical avid reader is a 40-year-old female.
At first blush, this seems to correspond with purchasing data: it’s been well-documented that women purchase far more books than men: women make approximately 80% of all book purchases. (As Ian McEwan famously stated: “When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”
That 80% figure is thrown around as evidence of the intellectual decline of the American male. But just because men purchase a mere 20% of the books, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re reading only 20% of the books.
Women are much more likely to make purchases for the household than men. That 80% figure includes women’s purchases for themselves, of course, but also for their kids, their partners, and for gifts. (My own household provides evidence of this phenomenon: all independent bookstore purchases, Amazon purchases, and library checkouts are made in my name alone.)
These stats about avid readers made me feel better about the state of my nation’s reading habits. Sometimes the stats are shocking, but reading is far from dead.
Are you an avid reader? Do you resonate with these stats?
p.s. This post was based on a presentation by The Reading Room at Book Expo America. Read more about my experience at Book Expo America here.