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What kinds of books did Americans read growing up, and what are they reading now?

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Whether it’s for schoolwork or just for fun, nearly nine in 10 American adults say that when they were growing up, they read books. A recent survey by YouGov asked Americans about the kinds of books they grew up reading and which ones they read now.

The proportion of people who report reading books as they grow up declines with age, from 95% of Americans over 65 to 79% of those under 30. The more recent an American’s childhood, the less likely they were to involve reading books.

The most popular genres for Americans to read when they were growing up are mystery and crime (40%), short stories (39%) and history (39%). Fantasy (36%), science fiction (36%) and youth (30%) follow closely. Least popular among the types of books surveyed are religion and spirituality (19%); crafts, hobbies and home (16%); and graphic novels (14%).

The genre of books for young adults was read the most during childhood among the genres surveyed by 12% of Americans who read at least one genre of book, more than any other genre. This is followed by mystery and crime, as well as science fiction, each reported by 10% of Americans.

The genres of books most read during childhood show differences between the sexes: 17% of women who read at least one genre of book during their childhood declared that they had read the genre Young adults the most, while only 6% of men who read in their childhood at least one kind of book a kind says the same thing. Instead, the genre most read by men growing up is science fiction (17% of childhood readers of at least one genre of book, compared to 4% for women).

How many Americans currently read books?

One in five Americans (22%) have not read a book, even partially, in the past year. This pattern varies by income, with 28% of Americans from households earning less than $50,000 reporting not having read any books in the past year, compared to 15% of those living in households with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000, and 17% of households earning $100,000. or more. Education may also play a role: university graduates are the most likely to have read more than 20 books in the past year (20%, compared to 10% for those with a university education and 6% for people who have not attended university). Americans who have not attended college are the most likely to have read no books in the past year (32%, compared to 18% of college graduates).

What genres do Americans currently read?

Some of the genres they read most growing up also remain popular with them today: 28% who read at least one genre of book say they read mystery novels and 27% say they read history books. Mystery and crime is the genre that the largest share of Americans who read a genre of book say they have read the most (14%), as it is the genre that most Americans who read a genre of book in their childhood say they read more than anyone else. another when they were growing up.

But there are also notable shifts between the reading preferences of children and adults. Although it is one of the least popular genres for American readers of genre books for children, religion and spirituality is one of the most popular genres for readers of genre books today, with 20% saying they read this genre and 13% saying they read it more. often than any other.

Current book genre preferences show some gender differences. Among women who read genres of books, 18% say the detective and detective genre is the genre they read the most, compared to 10% of men. History was the most read genre among men (14%), compared to 7% among women. However, equal shares of men and women who read book genres report reading the most religion and spirituality books (13% of each), making this genre the second most read by both men and women. women.

Some genres are more popular with members of certain age groups than others. More adults aged 65+ who read book genres report reading history books (13%) more than any other genre than members of other broad age groups. Meanwhile, romance and fantasy are the most read genres for a greater proportion of adults reading a book genre under the age of 30 (10% each) than for any other age group surveyed. However, the two most widely read genres remain consistent across all age groups: mystery and crime, and religion and spirituality – not always in that order.

What kinds of books were read more by Americans when they were growing up, compared to today? While 40% of Americans who read genres of books growing up say they read the mystery and crime genre, only 28% of current book genre readers say they currently read mystery and crime genres. However, a large proportion of current book genre readers say they read more mystery and crime than any other genre today (14%) than say they read that genre the most growing up (10 %). While the proportion of Americans who currently read book genres report reading religion and spirituality books (20%) is similar to the share of readers of childhood book genres who had read that genre growing up (19 %), more Americans who currently read genres of books (13%) report reading that genre the most today (13%) than the share of childhood genre readers who report reading the genre the most growing up (4%).

We also asked Americans who read a book in the past 12 months or don’t know if they have how often they finish the books they start reading. A third (33%) say they always finish reading books once they start them, and just 1% say they never finish them.

This question showed some differences with age. About 40% of Americans 45 and older who have read a book in the past 12 months or aren’t sure say they always finish books, compared with 26% of those 30-44 and 22% of adults under 30.

This survey was conducted July 19-22, 2022 among 1,000 adult U.S. citizens. Learn more about the methodology and data of this survey.

Image: Ying Ge on Unsplash