How Many Books Does the Average Person Read?
how many books do people read? Map...

How Many Books Does the Average Person Read?

How Many Books Does the Average Person Read?

George R. R Martin once said readers relive thousands of lives reading, while non-readers only live once. Americans have varied reading habits across different demographics. Some prefer to flip the pages, others listen to audiobooks, and for some, scrolling through an e-book is okay.

We’ll tell you how many books you can read annually and in your lifetime in this post. We will disaggregate book readership based on age, sex, and education. Further, we shall explore current trends in the reading world and seek to understand why Americans are reading fewer books.

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The Pew Research Center released their latest data on American reading habits, and the results show some interesting — and somewhat surprising — trends. Roughly 72 percent of American adults read a book in 2015, continuing a gradual decline over the last 5 years (from 79 percent in 2011). The figure now stands at 75 percent, according to the recent statistics released by Pew Research Center. 

However, these stats include people who reported reading “one book…in part,” so it’s unclear how many made it all the way through.

The average number of books each person read over the course of a year was 12, but the most avid readers inflate that number. The most frequently reported number was 4 books per year. Of course, there’s plenty of variation among demographics. Certain groups read more, or less, than the country as a whole. Here’s what the data showed:

Educated, affluent women read the most

Women tend to read more than men. About 77 percent of American women read a book in 2015, compared with 67 percent of American guys. Also, the average woman read 14 books in 12 months, while the average man read only 9. Across both genders, readership also went up with education and income. 

About 90 percent of college grads read at least one book a year, compared to 34 percent of people who haven’t finished high school. Also, the more money they earned, the likelier they were to be readers. It’s hard to say whether education and income are causes of this trend since people who go to college probably grow up reading more anyway, and income correlates with education. But the bottom line is that educated, high-earning women sit atop the reading pyramid in America.

Older people read less

One notable aspect of the data is that people tend to read less as they age. Fully 80 percent of 18–29-year-olds reported reading at least one book, compared to 69 percent of seniors (65+).

Americans don’t read as much as most other countries

Oh no! The ugly truth is that Americans as a whole lag behind most of the rest of the world when it comes to reading books. Are we too busy playing Candy Crush or posting on Facebook and Twitter to crack an actual paper spine? Maybe. 

The map below, reprinted in The Paris Review, shows that Indian people actually spend the most time in-between pages, followed closely by the Thai and Chinese. Americans are slackers compared to these countries, spending just a little more than half the time reading that our Indian counterparts do.

how many books does the average person read country by country statistics

CEOs tend to be voracious readers

Outside of the Pew study, we also looked for stats on how much the average CEO reads. It was hard to locate a formal study, but anecdotal evidence suggests that executives read 4–5 books per month, far outpacing the general population. As for what they’re reading, it’s not all motivational or business-themed: many top CEOs also reported reading novels, plays, and philosophy. Check out what some specific big names are consuming with this info-graphic.

Current trends in the reading world: ebooks and audiobooks

Americans still prefer print to other book forms, and more than two-thirds of Americans admit to reading a book in print, audio, or electronic. E-book readers grew in popularity, from 25% to 30%, while Americans who listened to audiobooks were 23%. Looks like the habit of reading e-books is picking.

Understanding the decline in book readership

Book readership among Americans is declining. The 6% number of Americans who loved passing the time reading a book is the lowest ever since Gallup started surveying book readership. The least rate was 10%.

Subgroups that were avid readers are now reading fewer books. Comparing 2021 stats with 2002 to 2016, women dropped from 19.3% to 15.7%. Americans above 55 are also reading fewer books, 9.5% down from 10.8%. College students reported the most significant book readership drop, from 21.1% to 14.6%.

Researchers should do more studies to ascertain why Americans are reading less, noting that book readership decline has nothing to do with Americans not reading any book-17% (Gallup) or 23% (Pew Research Centre). 

Perhaps the love for other sources of entertainment has grown, or maybe Americans have no time to read, or maybe they have lost interest in books. 

Perhaps worries about COVID 19 led fewer people to visit libraries and bookstores. Still, Americans could have books delivered to their doorstep or download e-books and audiobooks. So, book access is not that much of an issue. In fact, print book sales increased by 9% in 2021.

How many books does the average person read during their lifetime?

The average reader will complete 12 books in a year. If the life expectancy is 86 for females and 82 for males, and the proper reading age 25 years, Literary Hub notes that the average number of books read in a lifetime is 735 for females and 684 for males.

How much do you read?

If you’re an educated, young female CEO, the data says you’re probably reading something right now! If not, you can always hit your local library or bookstore to find something to sink your teeth into. 

Most people have read no more than 6 of these beloved books despite them being classics. It’s never too late to reinvest in reading, and there’s a good chance you’ll become a more interesting person as a result. For research-proven techniques and strategies on how to read faster (and remember more of what you read), check out an Iris Reading course online or in your city. Happy reading!

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Thomas Whittington

Thomas Whittington is an instructor with Iris Reading. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2005 despite being a painfully slow reader. In 2008, he took an Iris course and, with practice, dramatically improved his reading speed. Hey, better late than never! Thomas' other interests include acting, comedy, and the Chicago Cubs.

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  • Feather

    I am a child and I have read 21 300-500 page books most being fiction or historical fiction. Reading 14 hours a week and finishing 2-3 books per week. I read about 2-4 hours everyday. I have read many more advanced novels like Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre. I also write and draw for about 1 hour each day and switching everyday between writing for 1 hour and drawing for 1 hour. I also have a very large vocabulary.

    • Maddie

      Feather, be sure to relax your eyes between bouts of reading/drawing/close work by going outdoors and looking OUT–AWAY–down a DISTANCE. You want to keep your eyes flexible and not become needful of strong glasses. Eyes need relief and they need exercise just as our other muscles and organs do. :-)

  • Alina Lane

    I read about 10 books per month. They range in page size from 350 to 700 pages. I am disabled and stuck in the prone position most days, thus the *time* to read that many books. I take this wonderful time to read as a reward for so much back pain, surgeries, and loss of other activities. This time is a blessing so I am grateful to get to go on so many adventures without leaving my bed. Note: my favorite prose format is audiobook, but I do read kindle and physical books. I buy the physical books if I have re-listened to a particular book at least 3x as I love it so much I want it in my physical library for the day the internet crashes and never reboots, haha. Happy reading everyone, and may so many more people discover the joy of reading. P.S. Davian Porter is the best female narrator, and Phil Gigante is the best male narrator. Of. All. Time.!

    • Marsha Turner

      Dear Alina,

      I commend you for finding joy in your life through reading in spite of your physical challenges. You’re not pitying yourself but creating your own happiness. Continue on those wondrous adventures!😀

  • Wycliffe

    HAAHAHAHHAHAHHA…. This is making me laugh big. Whether you are right or wrong I can’t avoid the humor in it.

    • Alek Sander

      I’m sensing more sadness than humor.

  • Natheer Abdulsalam

    In my point of view reading a great book that changes your way of thinking (which leads you success) is much better than reading a thousand books without leaving any impact on you.

  • Daniel Malloy

    CEOs should spend more time running their companies

    • Alek Sander

      I have worked with CEOs and executives at a number of Fortune 500 companies and EVERY SINGLE ONE of them were avid readers. Interesting how all of them shared that in common. No one gets to that level unless they’re getting some purposeful reading done each day.

  • Robert

    My daughter is an major reader she averages 3-4 books a day by her choice I love the fact she enjoys it so much and I am glad I encouraged her from a baby to now she is 9 and I don’t mean the little books the smallest book she read this week was 350 pages and no pictures

    • Maddie

      You can ‘ramp up’ the enjoyment — and make reading an interactive event — by reading novels / stories aloud. Even slow-ish stories become interesting when they’re read aloud. And it makes ‘chore-time’ a lot easier: read while your listeners are: doing dishes, pulling dandelions, folding clothes, dusting, or even just sitting at table after dinner. (Or during a long car ride) A chapter a day keeps the adventure rolling and the interest keen. Try it:

  • Sun

    Book reading is a very good habit, reading books creates cognitive engagement that improves lots of things in life that’s
    why a successful person spends a lot of time reading books.

  • Fran Hunne

    I have always loved reading, but read more when I was a child than now, as today everyday commitments does not leave me with a lot of time to read – and yes, I do have other hobbies, too.

    If you count books you are not fair, because one reads a doorstopper like the complete Gormenghast trilogy (1172 pages) or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (782), while another reads a crime novel which hardly ever excel 350 pages. Both, the doorstopper reader and the crime novel reader have read ONE book. But the former has read double or even thrice the amount the latter has read.

    That is why counting in book numbers is not fair to readers. Not that I say any of those bigger ones are more valuable, just that the number of pages would be a fairer assessment.

    • Paul Nowak

      Hi Fran – I absolutely agree. The number of pages is more of an apples-to-apples comparison. And then there is quality vs. quantity. I’d rather reading one very good book, then 5 terrible ones.

  • Gobi Dasu

    I think the statistic for India might have to do with just reading, not reading books specifically, though I may be wrong. People in India very avidly read newspapers daily. This is why I have a tinge of doubt.

  • Tortareka

    Ha I’ve read almost 300 since the beginning of the school year.

    • Dallae

      In the last six months, I’ve read about 500-700 physical copy novels.

  • Luke

    I read 3-12 hours a day ??‍♂️

  • Sophia

    It’s April right now, and I’ve read at least twelve books so far this year, at least eight of which were novel length, meaning over 50,000 words. (The longest one was 144,000 words.) This is not counting school textbooks.

    I think novels are great and I hate it when people say they are not useful to read. I tend to read historical fiction novels, which make history stick in your head better than the textbooks in my opinion, and classics such as the works of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, etc. I choose the novels I read carefully and try to find ones that expand my world view and ones with inspiring characters who make me want to be a better person. Novels are great for getting people started who hate reading. Just let it be a worthwhile one cause there are plenty of trashy novels, there are just plenty of great ones too. :)

  • Me

    Why has reading become a pissing contest? And should it not be quality over quantity? If i read 20 books this year i’ll be happy as i have other interests and hobbies as well.

  • Mal

    Hardly surprising to see the UK near the bottom of the list. They’d rather be in the sports bar. Might explain the Brexit result.

    • David L

      Nah. British people are busy writing the novels that the rest of the world reads, as well as great comedy, and doing Nobel prize-winning research. The UK has several universities in the world top ten; the rest of Europe — none. Brexit will be great because Britain excels all other EU countries in every way that matters.

  • Kevin Kordes

    I’m not surprised at all seeing Thailand in the #2 position. I I spent 8 years in Thailand teaching ESL and studying the Thai language which is the most fascinating language that I have ever studied. It has a 44 consonant, non-Roman alphabet and 33 complex vowel sounds but it is almost completely phonic in its orthography. Reading Thai is a visual pleasure and one can see Thais reading in public wherever you go. Thai libraries have books that are dog-eared from countless readings. And when the library chairs are full one can see dozens of people sitting on the floor with their backs to the walls reading books. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the same in the USA? Sadly, that is not the case.

  • Kyle of Oostburg

    Okay, so its decided, we here all read. Now then, how many books does the average person write?

  • Matt

    I read 31 books last year, but also re-read some of them.. Any more than that and I don’t feel as if I can absorb it.. Especially for self help and business books.

    • Alek Sander

      Speed reading is all about efficiency and purposeful reading. I prefer quality over quantity and when applying the techniques in my business books, personal development and self-help, I find ways to implement the principles in real life application to absorb the information more effectively. Sounds like you could benefit from some note-taking strategies and memory techniques.

  • Katya

    I can read ebooks faster than paper books. It is easier to highlight and copy good sentences

  • Katya

    I don’t feel cormfortable reading fiction books and my friends say non fiction books are boring.

    • Dallae

      Screw them, non-fiction books are amazing.

  • Esme

    I always find it so depressing to read statistics such as these. I am currently working on a project about reading trends and associations with age, and I never knew people who don’t read existed. I, for one, read 250 to 300 books a year, and I am still astonished that most of my participants read only one to ten books a year. Reading as a pastime is entertaining, I swear. Go to the library when you have some free time, you won’t regret it.

    • Apostolia

      Wait did you say you read 300 books a year ? Is that a joke or did I get something wrong ? Cause that’s impossible if the books aren’t terribly small.

  • isabelle

    last year in 9th grade i read 20 books. this year, i’m up to 67 books.

  • Lilly


  • Lilly

    I am a books worm. I am trying ot figure out how many people read non fiction books in the US. I can’t find any straight results on google. But now when I look at this, I almost cry.

    • Alek Sander

      Yes, Lilly… It is indeed a sad statistic. Many people don’t learn how to apply speed reading and memory techniques to their required daily reading until they are already overwhelmed with the intensive amounts of new information that they need to keep up with. Some people look at reading as a laborious task, but the concepts & techniques can make reading a lot more fluid and effortless.

  • Hh

    I read one book a year and i think it’s enough for me

  • Brad Tyra

    What percentage of people have never read a book? How many of them have Masters/PhD’s?
    I have never read a book in my life. I am severely dyslexic. I was drawn to this article because I have a Masters Degree and am planning on writing my story about what it has been like for me suffering through and succeeding in the public education system. I have been blessed with a few teachers that have excepted my 4th grade reading level and helped to focus on the things I am good at.

  • khan

    It’s confusing for the countries as it seems the less you read the smarter nation you become.

    There must be something not right with the survey. We need to know the type of data sampling collected from.

    Is that only the university kids or random people on the street? Did we collect the random data from all across the country or selected regions etc?

  • Eric

    I think books are important because they take you into a world of imagination. Reading has given me ideas and took me into a world of imagination. when I was younger I never really liked reading that stopped at third grade. When my school’s librarian recommended that I read the lightning thief I decided to give it a try, and when I started reading I could never stop and I finished The book series by the end of third grade ( I joined a new school after winter break ). Since then I have always had a love for reading books, and books are something which makes you always want to read more Even if you’re not into books.

  • Justin

    Just started reading last year. Last year I managed to read 17 books. 9 non-fiction and 8 fiction. I would just like to note that most of the books in that list of classics are trash that are not worth your time, much like my 8 books of fiction one of which was on that list. Most of these books have movies that will consume far less of your time leaving you time to go read books of importance such as books on finance.

    • Justin

      Don’t get me wrong I enjoy reading trash as much as any one else (hence the 8 books of fiction.) But it is important to recognize that your reading trash and try to read more books of importance.

  • Sharon

    I read on the average 5 books a week. And no, they are not pocket books, they are novels. I awaken around 4 a.m. and read until 9 a.m. and again in the evening for 2 or 3 hours. I don’t watch t.v. , play on a computer or other electronic devices plus I am a fast reader. I make good use of the library however, I do purchase used books and donate them to the cancer center.

  • sidi

    I can’t believe how much people are reading! I only read one book a year or even less I think I should get a life?!

  • Vladimir

    I read around 25-30 books a year. I also read slower and take a lot of notes from each book I read. Got people here reading 100s, I’ll probably never get to that much per year

  • Clint Westwood

    lol everyone is flexing their reading skillz. I read so many books that my fingers look like edward scissorhand’s face from all the paper cuts that I get from reading so many books. just too many books.

    • Vedant pol

      Read e books ?

  • Rammie M.

    I read around 150-200 books a year. I am a big book worm so whenever you see me I usually have a book in my hand. Plus I am a fast reader so that really helps.

    • Rammie M.

      And plus I am only in the 9th grade so I have alot of free time!!

  • Andrew K

    I read probably around 80 books a year. Allot of them have a 250,000+ word count, some are 350,000+ words. I read probably 1-2 hours a day only because I’m a college student and full time worker that doesn’t have allot of extra time. I also listen to some books here and there when I am driving or mowing the lawn.

  • Sean Leas

    Since I’m reading this article, you got it, I’m a voracious reader. Typically 100-120 a year, I spread my reading material across all genres and love it all. Right now I’m chomping at the bit to get back to a book. And if you’re counting its physical over electronic.

    • Daredevil

      Are you all reading physical books or ebooks? Also how many of those physical books do you still have? What do you do with the book after you have already read it?

  • Phil

    Probably read 10 to 15 per year, 20 absolute max. Subject matter and book length for sure help determine averages. Unfortunately, books more academically inclined the more pages one will usually encounter. Not exactly fast, easy reading even if enjoyable. Any of you fellow History or English majors out there can certainly relate : )

  • Diane J

    Since July of 2013 I have read 940 books. My goal is 1000 books in 4 years. Luckily I am now retired so that will help me reach my goal?

  • Stephanie V.

    12 books a year???? That’s like a low month reading for me! I usually read 120-170 books per year, and this year alone I’m up to 45 books read in my goodreads challenge.

  • Lilyn G

    Good lord. I’m already 53 books into my Goodreads challenge for 250 books this year. And that’s actually down from last year! I’m trying not to read as many as I did in 2016.

    • Andrew K

      You must read really small books. Because at March 14th of this year there were only like 74 days in the year. Which means you claimed to have read about 3/4 of a book a day.

      One of the smallest books I have read this year was only 380 pages, and had 120,000 words. At above average reading speed you would need about 8 hours of above average reading speed to complete it. So with your 3/4 a book a day you would need to read 6 hours a day to read 53 books that were 120,000 words each in 74 days. Im a college student, and full time worker, so I have maybe an hour or 2 a day I can read. How does someone have 6 hours a day to read books? And why are all of your books so short? Most books I have read this year are in the 250,000+ word count, some are 350,000+ words(Shadow Rising, Fires of Heaven, Lords of Chaos). A 250,000 word book would take an above average reader about 17 hours of straight reading at an above average speed to complete.

      So either you are a hermit that reads medium size books every day, or you count recipes as books.

  • Oliver

    I read 60-120 books a year…

    • hai dao

      I just cross 50 and now i just found out the important of reading :-(. But I read to enhance myself and to influence and help others. Since that all these ppl reading like crazy and for longer time. may I ask how has all these reading affect and help you with your life, how about others? I want to know so I can encourage other to read.. Does novel help??