54% of Americans read a book this year

David MontgomerySenior data journalist
December 21, 2023, 11:31 PM GMT+0

Just over half of all Americans said they read at least one book in 2023. Most of them read just a few books this year: 82% of Americans read 10 or fewer books.

Book-reading is strongly associated with college education. 44% of U.S. adult citizens without a college degree said they read at least one book in 2023, compared to 73% of those with a college degree.

Americans who did read were more likely to read physical books. More than 40% of Americans read a physical book in 2023, compared to 21% who read an e-book and 19% who listened to an audiobook.

But e-book users were the most voracious readers. Americans who said they read at least some digital books were much more likely to say they read or listened to more than 20 books this year, compared to Americans who read physical books or audiobooks. (People who consumed books in more than one medium were counted in each category.)

Mystery books and histories were the most popular book genres Americans read in 2023, with more than 35% of those who have read at least one book saying they read a book in each of those genres. Fantasy, historical fiction, biographies, and literary fiction were other popular genres.

Genre choice is heavily influenced by gender. 45% of female readers read at least one mystery or crime novel in 2023, compared to 28% of male readers. On the other hand, 49% of male readers read at least one history book, compared to 24% of female readers. History was still a popular genre for female readers, like mysteries were for male readers. Mysteries were the fourth-most popular genre for men, and history was the sixth-most popular genre for women.

How do your reading habits stack up?

If you read or listened to only one book in 2023, then you read more than 46% of Americans. Reading five books puts you ahead of two-thirds of U.S. adult citizens. Readers of 10 books are in the 79th percentile, while Americans who read 20 or more books read more than 88% of their peers.

Related: How many books Americans own — and how they organize them

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on December 16 - 18, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3.5%.

Image: Adobe