What are the most popular books in the United States? We asked 374 American readers what genre of books they read in 2022 and what they plan to read in 2023. Here are the US book reading statistics from the survey results.
We wanted to know what, how and how much people were reading. So, we asked 945 readers in 56 countries about their book reading habits. Here is what the 374 American participants had to say.
- Click here for the global book reading data from all 56 countries.
- Click here for the book reading data from Canada.
Reading is alive and well, especially in the USA. People around the world responded to our reading survey, and they shared the details of the books they read and how they read them. Here are some of the key findings of the U.S. survey results.
Key findings from the book reading statistics
- Key finding 1: The United States is a nation of bookworms.
- Key finding 2: American readers plan to read more in 2023.
- Key finding 3: Americans love history, mystery and biography – 7% more than the rest of the world.
- Key finding 4: Americans plan to read even more history, mystery and biography in 2023.
- Key finding 5: American readers still love paper books.
- Key finding 6. Kindle is an American thing.
- Key finding 7: Most readers in America like the length of their books.
- Key finding 8: Readers in the United States come in all ages.
- Key finding 9: More women than men in the USA see themselves as readers.
We captured the data. We captured the uncensored, anonymous comments. Here’s what we found.
Key finding 1: The United States is a nation of bookworms.
We asked people how many books they read in 2022. It turns out there are many light readers, and quite a few dedicated bookworms, but much fewer moderately-committed readers. What really stands out, however, is how the United States compares to other countries. America is a nation of bookworms.
Survey says: 39% said they read over 20 books in 2022. This is much higher than the world averages of 27%. 25% said they read one to five books, which is lower than the world average of 32%. Just 16% said they read six to 10 books, and 18% read 11 to 20 books in 2022, similar to the world average.
One comment we got from a US reader might just describe the ultimate bookworm:
“Don’t forget about the book lovers/collectors (like me). Fiction is for fun – an escape, a dive into another world. While non-fiction is to build my library. Not every non-fiction book is read cover-to-cover. Yet, I always find a hidden gem between the pages that I want to remember and return to again and again. I have books on every table and shelf that are always there for me, whenever I need them – to get me through the day.”
Key finding 2: American readers plan to read more in 2023.
Predictions that the end of books was nigh have proven to be premature. Not only are Americans reading more than the rest of the world, but they plan to read even more in 2023 than they did in 2022.
Survey says: 61% of US readers plan to read more books in 2023 than they did in 2022. Just 3% plan to read fewer books. These results are similar to the global tally.
Whether people end up reading more in 2023 or simply aspire to do so, we’ll have to wait for next year’s book reading statistics to find out. As one US participant put it, “I would love to read more, but hard to find the time.” Another expressed it like this: “I love to read and don’t feel like I have as much time for it as I used to. Read about ten books this year, plan on doing much better next year!!”
The intention to read more shows that Americans still love their books.
Key finding 3: Americans love history, mystery and biography – 7% more than the rest of the world.
We asked people about the books they are reading. We wanted to know if they were reading fiction or non-fiction. And we wanted to know what genres they preferred.
Survey says: the three top genres in the USA and the world in 2022 were:
- History: 41% of American readers (34% globally)
- Mystery 40% of American readers (33% globally)
- Biography/memoir 38% of American readers (31% globally)
Other strong contenders were fantasy (34%), science fiction (31%) and romance (27%). In almost every category, Americans read more than the rest of the world. You can see this in the bar chart below, which shows the American data represented in purple, superimposed on the global statistics as yellow bars.
In the comments. Readers also told us about the categories we missed, such as horror, children’s books, spiritual books, comic books and poetry.
And Americans also shared some of the actual books they have been reading, such as:
- “Currently reading ‘Killers Of A Certain Age’. Highly recommend it!”
- “Diana Galbadon is my favorite author, I’ve been reading her books since the 80’s. The Outlander series is incredible.”
- “Social justice, education, psychology”
- “ My favorite books are from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.”
- “Most of them were Star Trek novels.”
- “You did not list comedy as a selection. But my favorite book was Andy Borowitz and also Stephen Colbert.”
- “I’m currently reading novels set in Maine.”
As a matter of record, we do not plan to add a category next year for “novels set in Maine”.
A few of the comments also captured a growing awareness of indie authors. One participant mentioned “Mostly self published books.” Another plans to join their ranks:
“I’ve started focusing more on indie writers (about 25% of total books). I think that will increase next year. I’ve been thrilled with the quality of their writing and the raw passion they instill in their works. They avoid the commercial scrubbing that can happen at big publishers. I’m joining the ranks of indie writers next year. I can’t wait.”
Key finding 4: Americans plan to read even more history, mystery and biography in 2023
If Americans loved reading all those genres in 2022, just wait for 2023! As they said they plan to read more overall in 2023, it should come as no surprise that they plan to read each genre more in 2023 than in 2022.
Survey says: the three top genres people across the USA plan to read in 2023 are:
- History (45%)
- Mystery (43%)
- Biography/memoir (42%)
Other well-read genres were fantasy, science fiction and adventure. Both other fiction and other non-fiction were selected by many readers (38% and 35% respectively).
In the graph below, the numbers and the purple bars represent what Americans plan to read in 2023. They are superimposed over the yellow bars, which represent what they read in 2022. You can see that in almost every genre, Americans aspire to read the same or more than in 2023.
American readers want to read a lot more “other fiction”. This strengthens our need to add more categories, such as poetry, horror and comics/manga, next year.
Key finding 5: American readers still love paper books
The long-predicted demise of paper has not arrived across the US and around the world. Paper (print books) is still preferred over eBooks, according to the latest book reading statistics.
I wrote about the pros and cons of eBooks in 2017, citing more pros than cons. So, we asked people to name the one format they read the most in 2022.
Survey says: 50% of Americans read paper most – 34% paperback and 16% hard cover. 36% of readers chose eBooks, which is consistent with Pew Research poll results. Another 9% listened to audio books and 5% chose “other” (which might include comic books, brail or some other format).
Key finding 6: Kindle is an American thing.
The most interesting finding when it comes to reading format is that Americans really love their Kindles, almost as much as paperbacks.
The table below shows how Americans still like paper books more than eBooks. But less so than people elsewhere in the world. However, that difference is all about Kindle, not about eBooks in general. In fact, Americans read “other eBooks” less than people in other countries.
The comments on format told us that many Americans read more than one format. One US participant mentioned, “Combo paperback, hardcover and ebook.”
Another said, “I read multiple books at a time. Usually an audiobook, a paperback and an eBook, but focus on audiobooks because I do a lot of walking.”
Another told us, “I wish I had more time to read. Audio books might be a better choice after all, although I do enjoy a printed word.”
Still on the audiobook theme, another American reader told us, “I listen far more often than I read now.”
Another was even more eclectic: “I read lots of newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, travel brochures, just about anything.”
Key finding 7: Most readers in America like the length of their books.
Writers sometimes struggle with their manuscripts. Have I written too much? Should I tighten it up? Do I need more detail? Will people find my book too short or too long?
Writers: keep doing what you’ve been doing.
Survey says: according to the latest book reading statistics, 84% of American readers and 86% of readers around the world think their books are just the right length. 12% of Americans think they are too long in this age of short attention spans, but 4% of dedicated bookworm think their books are too short.
Key finding 8: Readers in the United States come in all ages.
If you thought that the enduring popularity of books, and paper books in particular, was due to old-timers having difficulty adapting to new technology, this survey suggests otherwise. Around the world, reading ages are fairly well spread out. However, American readers are older, according to the latest book reading statistics.
Survey says: 28% or respondents were 55-64 years old, and another 21% were 65 or over. This compares to 18% and 4% of overall global participants. In other words, about half of US readers who responded to this survey are 55 or over, whereas just a quarter of global readers who responded to this survey were 55 or over. This might be good news for older Americans, as reading helps defend against dementia.
The table below shows how there are also fewer young US book readers in our survey.
What is particularly counterintuitive is how age and reading format relate to each other. US readers tend to be older than world readers. But US readers are less inclined to read paper and more inclined to adopt technology. An interesting topic for tech researchers, perhaps?
Key finding 9: More women than men in the USA see themselves as readers.
Who reads more, women or men?
Survey says: 67% of US respondents were women, 33% were men and 1% identified as other. That means 2/3 of Americans who consider themselves to be “book readers” are women. This is similar to the world trend, but more pronounced. Globally, 56% of respondents were women. This is consistent with other research that shows girls and women read more books.
Survey methodology and limitations
We surveyed 374 Americans about their reading habits in December 2022 to gather book reading data. Because this is an Internet poll, no margin of error is assigned to the results. The results have not been weighted by age, gender, location or any other factor.
This was not a random survey. Respondents tended to self-identify as “readers”. People who do not read books or have not read books in a while declined to participate. When citing this survey, it would be most accurate to refer to “American readers”.
The survey was disseminated primarily through social media. The accounts used to reach people were primarily on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as on Facebook and some smaller networks. The bias on these accounts, based on the composition of their followers, skews towards:
- writers, authors and self-identified book lovers
- bloggers and online marketers
- other artists (musicians, crafters, photographers, etc.)
The bias on these accounts, based on the composition of their followers, skews away from:
- sports-themed accounts
- religion-focused themes
- scientists and healthcare accounts
- fashion-focused accounts
- food- and travel-themed accounts
A HUGE “Thank you!” to all who completed the 2022-2023 book reading survey and shared their book reading habits with us. You people rock!
Permission is granted to republish the graphics on this page and cite the book reading statistics. Attribution is required, and a link back would be appreciated (and useful for readers) but not required.