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Average # of Books Read per Year

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Aug 21, 2010, 11:19am Top

Just curious to know what the average number of books a person reads in a year.

Aug 21, 2010, 11:48am Top

The real average is probably impossible to actually note; precocious readers and non-readers tend to throw the median through a loop. Plus, statistics inherently lie, because you cannot calculate every person and his/her reading habits on the planet; there is also accounting for the availability of books, what we define as a book, the country of origin/residence, socio-economic status, whether we are also counting children with adults, the time required to read them in comparison to a person's work schedule, the changes from year to year, etc. Different tests give different results, so there is no right answer.

To be practical and give an educated guess, I'd say a person living in a Western nation reads on average around six to eleven books a year.

Aug 21, 2010, 11:54am Top

Thank you for being the 1st to reply. I would say that I myself average about 12 or so a year ... sometimes in spurts and other times, not much. But overall I would say 12 a year would be reasonable for me.

Aug 21, 2010, 5:27pm Top

I think I'm one of Phocion's "precocious" readers - I read a lot although this is the first year I've kept track properly. I guesstimated that I read about 100 last year, but this year I'm at 120 already, not counting newspapers, magazines and professional reading.

Aug 21, 2010, 6:26pm Top

Yep, I'm a precocious one, too. I read 200 books a year.

Aug 21, 2010, 6:39pm Top

I'm somewhere between average and precocious. Maybe just highly enthusiastic with around 65 a year--though I usually aim higher, sometimes even making it :)

Edited: Aug 21, 2010, 8:03pm Top

in 2008, 108. In 2009, 111. I'm on track to hit somewhere between 110 and 120 this year. Been keepin' track in the 75 Books Challenge group.

Aug 21, 2010, 8:55pm Top

I'm very up and down with my reading... I'll read anywhere from 4-12 books in one month (I can read that many because some are YA/thin), but then I sometimes go weeks without reading anything.

I don't keep track, but I *think* last year I read something like 90-100 books.

Aug 21, 2010, 9:22pm Top

I've finished 148 so far this year and I'm halfway through another two, so I'm on track to read about 230 by the end of December.

Edited: Aug 21, 2010, 9:26pm Top

Since I've been keeping track, I've read 150+ books per year.

Aug 21, 2010, 11:06pm Top

I consider myself to be a prolific reader if the number of books I complete in a year reaches double digits. Maybe I was taught wrong, but I have to read every word in every sentence.

Aug 21, 2010, 11:15pm Top

I'm not sure how to count it, but I may read only ¼ of a book, or ½. Reference books are also a problem, as over a ten year period, I might read some pages 10 times, but never read anything on other pages.

Edited: Aug 21, 2010, 11:56pm Top

Very roughly, there's about 10 (new) books sold per capita per year.

(See: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2009/tables/09s1097.pdf)

There are various guesses that something like 15% of the books sold are used books.

The ALA claims about 7.4 "items" circulate per capita (...but a lot of "items" aren't books):


So, very, roughly 1 book per month per capita is purchased, and say 1/2 a book per month per capita is borrowed from the library. Now, there are various estimates about how most new books are never actually read; on the other hand, there are a LOT of used books in the world, and a huge inventory already out there in peoples' homes. And there's some small number of books that are handed on from person to person. So let's ignore the details around the problem of relating "books sold" to "books actually read", but they're probably within a factor of two or so of each other.

Now factor in the various surveys that say things like
“We've got a public culture which is almost entirely commercial- and novelty-driven," says NEA chairman Dana Gioia.
•Only 38% of adults in 2006 said they had spent time reading a book for pleasure the previous day.
•65% of college freshmen in 2005 said they read little or nothing for pleasure."

56.6% of adult Americans said they read at least one book, fiction or non-fiction, between August 2001 and August 2002 compared to 60.9% ten years prior.

{These are from a huge round-up of somewhat outdated book stats at:

So if 40- or even 50-some percent of the public doesn't read at all, then the average person who actually DOES read books is likely to read something in the ballpark of 2.5 books a month, 30 books a year.

You'll probably get answers here on LT that are substantially higher than that. (There's a whole lot of self-selection at work....)

Aug 22, 2010, 12:31am Top

I'm a slow reader. Like "WholeHouseLibrary" I also need to read every word of every sentence. On an average I read a book every 10 days. Some books go more quickly, some more slowly.

Aug 22, 2010, 2:02am Top

>#1: The answer is 18.7. But i'm not telling you who the person is.

Edited: Aug 22, 2010, 2:45am Top

Actually, for Americans, I believe that the number is somewhere between 4 and 5. If I recall correctly, the topic was addressed by a study linked at BookBalloon or Readerville before it was shut down. I'll dig around and see if I can find it.

Edited to close tag and link to article on poll. (which is outdated by a couple of years now. I doubt the data's changed all that much, though.)

Edited: Aug 22, 2010, 6:03am Top

I'm one of those who would skew the statistics - I've never kept count, but I'd say I easily get through 200+ books a year (and I do read every word and every page, too! How else would one read a book?!).

(Edited for spelling - why is it that I have suddenly become unable to type "would" and always end up with "woudl" instead?!)

Aug 22, 2010, 11:50am Top

I dunno. I had a period in my life where I was reading at least a book a day. Don't see much point in that now.

Aug 22, 2010, 12:52pm Top

One should also keep in mind that sometimes people just plain lie, usually about what they've read than how many they've read. The two are connected, however, because in order to appear well-read, some people in these statistics may bloat their actual number; this also goes back to defining a book.

Meanwhile, people who take pride in that they read nothing are probably underestimating themselves; if, say, fanfiction, magazines, and blogs were to ever start applying to the data, numbers may start rising.

Aug 22, 2010, 12:53pm Top

#16 - interesting poll, Jesse.

That's one way to arrive at an answer: just ask people. (Although presumably, when asked, people will exaggerate their reading....)

The poll confirms the "10-books-sold-per-capita" figure - but when you ask people, Americans read only 4 or 5 books per adult. (That's more like 3- or 4 books-read-per-capita.)

Which means that most of the books that are sold remain unread.
(That's true even before you count library books, used books, passed-around books, etc. in the "books read" total.) That factoid is a little dismaying all by itself.

Aug 22, 2010, 1:05pm Top

Well, regardless, I'd say that however you look at it, the numbers are still pretty low.

I once took the lit specific GRE (a practice version) for shits and giggles. I think I received an 86th percentile score on it. Which is kind of scary when you consider that I didn't graduate from high school or go to college.

But then again, the older I get, the less convinced I am that being conversant with what's inside of books has much practical value.

Aug 22, 2010, 1:12pm Top

111 books read in 2009 and 70 books read so far in 2010.

I do read every word EXCEPT for car and/or foot chases and fights. I just skim quickly through those as I am only interested in the outcome of said chase or fight.

Also speed up those scenes when watching a movie or TV.

Aug 22, 2010, 1:23pm Top

21: I've been through high school and college, but I do not consider your testing all that scary. Standardized testing is ridiculed for a reason; but people would rather have public education than not have it.

Books have more entertainment value than practical value. Remember, more civilizations have existed throughout history without written literature than with it; Rousseau thought the only real book of value, the only book he'd let a child touch, was Robinson Crusoe because it taught us to survive in nature.

Like mathematics, it's just a tool we've used to describe the world around us, or the world we'd like to see.

Aug 22, 2010, 1:31pm Top

#21But then again, the older I get, the less convinced I am that being conversant with what's inside of books has much practical value.

Well, sure. But there's always a good Chilton's Repair and Tune-up Guide.

Aug 22, 2010, 1:31pm Top

I agree with Sophie236. I read 200+ per year and I really do READ them. Between testing when I was young and conversations about books recently, my comprehension and retention are way above average. Curiously, I can remember plots, characters and settings while forgetting authors and titles - frustrating - perhaps old age setting in?

I definitely skew the library statistics. 99% of the books I read come from the library. I had my husband get a library card so I could double the number of print and audio books I have on hold. Then there are the ebooks and audio downloads, with their own hold lists. My library is a slice of heaven.

Aug 22, 2010, 2:09pm Top

When I was younger, I ploughed through about 10 books per week; even at that rate, comprehension and retention were between 70% and 80%. Once I even went through three of Ursula LeGuin's Canopus in Argos novels over a single rainy Saturday.

Now, as late middle age is setting in, it is more like three to five books per week.

Aug 22, 2010, 4:38pm Top

#25 .... retention. I just finished The First Victim by RIdley Pearson. I found an old sheet the other day wherein I had read it back in 2004 yet there wasn't one thing that came back to me. Nothing sparked any memory cells whatsoever .... I think I might be in toruble .... LOL

Edited: Aug 22, 2010, 6:39pm Top

Canopus in Argos is by Doris Lessing. With some admiration for Ms. Leguin notwithstanding, I believe they are orders of magnitude apart in writing competence.


Aug 22, 2010, 6:48pm Top

>28 Mr.Durick: Argh

I should not try to write coherent literary criticism after three pints of the good brew. Lessing, of course.

Aug 22, 2010, 6:52pm Top

I believe in the genuineness of typographical errors because I make them. One of the tricks at LibraryThing for avoiding them is to use touchstones; the author usually shows up in one. I happen to love the works of Lessing and have, to my shame, the single volume edition of her science fiction yet to read but long on my, figurative, shelf.


Aug 22, 2010, 9:47pm Top

I just started keeping track last year in November just for curiosity. I have currently read 25 books to date.

Aug 23, 2010, 9:24am Top

My own reading stats are very average if not low. But people read at a wide range of speeds. Reading more books per year has no connection to skimming, paying less attention, etc. That's like saying that people who type more quickly than you always make more typos. Not to mention that the amount of free time available to each person varies all over the place.

Aug 23, 2010, 9:34am Top

#13"You'll probably get answers here on LT that are substantially higher than that. (There's a whole lot of self-selection at work....)

Quoted for Truth.

I use the "year" tag to track my completed reads - about 120/year or so.

Very much depends what else you want to do with your life. I'll read in preference to watching TV (or sleeping sometimes) but would have a lot more reading time if didn't do otherstuff.

Aug 23, 2010, 11:13am Top

I think I average in the mid to upper sixties, but this year I've already read 53 and have 4 more going so I expect to break 80 this year. especially since I am going on vacation Labor Day week and hope to get 5-6 books read in that period

Aug 23, 2010, 11:29am Top

For me I guess it's about a book a week. Not sure. I'm not really interested in the number of books. I'm a slow reader. I wish I could retain more of what I read, esp. nonfiction, but age seems to be getting in the way of that.

Edited: Aug 23, 2010, 12:20pm Top

It is interesting that whenever you see some survey that has taken a random sample of people in a certain age group and place, you seem to get an answer of something of the order of 10 books read per year. In addition to those quoted above, a bit of random Googling brought up a study from Burkina Faso that quoted 6 to 12 for high-school students there. So there's not all that much difference between the richest and poorest countries in the world in that regard.

Obviously, social statisticians must read far more books than the people they interview, because they always seem to find these numbers a cause for concern. But I suspect they're wrong, and the real problem is with people like us, who are sitting around reading novels at the rate of two or three a week, when we could be spending our time saving the planet, repairing bicycles, growing organic vegetables, camping outside US bases, knitting socks out of goat wool, and attending folk-music festivals, like all the normal people who don't have time for books...

(Edited for clarity)

Aug 23, 2010, 12:25pm Top

I've been tracking my reads for a few years now and consistently read about 50 to 60 books a year. I spend way too much time here on LT playing instead of reading.

Aug 25, 2010, 10:38am Top

But what about those of us who knit and read at the same time, using both print and audio books though not at the same time.

Aug 25, 2010, 10:39am Top


Aug 25, 2010, 11:07am Top

#36 - it's the knitting that steals the time away. I can/could fit in all the rest of your activities, but I live with a knitter. No way is there time to do anything but knit/card/comb/wash/dry/spin/plait and everythign else associated with it. I'm sometimes amazed that sleeping and eating fit in somewhen.

Aug 25, 2010, 1:41pm Top

For years I fit into the 6-12 books read a year category and with my new personal record of 37 books read so far this year I think I might still have a chance for at least 75 books read by the end of the year. And hopefully next year I'll be able to surpass this year's total whatever that may wind up being and have a goal to shoot for in 2011.


Aug 25, 2010, 6:44pm Top

I've read 94 books so far this year and am shooting for between 144-150.

Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 11:43pm Top

I read 5 books 200 or more pages a week. This does not include comics. And I am not that old at all.

Mar 2, 2012, 1:46pm Top

Surely LT members will read more than others? Self selected book lovers.

Mar 2, 2012, 3:14pm Top

I usually read a few fewer or a few more than 100 a year. I passed 100 on 30 December in 2011. My record is about 120. I don't think, given other commitments, I can ever read significantly more than that, unless I take an artificial decision to read only very short books.

Mar 6, 2012, 10:24am Top

>44 lizstansbridge:, that's my general feeling. Which is why I don't chastise or judge myself too harshly in comparison for reading no more than two a month, which I've averaged all my life. I don't consider myself any less of a book lover because I'm a slower reader, though. The key point is that I've never not been reading something since I picked up my first book and discovered the medium.

LT caters to all speeds. There's a variety of challenge groups here with a wide range of targets, and I settle nicely into the low end that aims for 24 in a year (although it's certainly a less frequented group than those that aim higher): http://www.librarything.com/groups/tbrchallenge

Mar 8, 2012, 9:10am Top

I do about 300 a year. My library history is usually about 350 checkouts a year, but some of those are for my husband and some are dvd's.

Edited: Mar 8, 2012, 3:29pm Top

Amazing. I can't begin to contemplate reading an entire novel in a day and still have time remaining for anything besides sleep. No, even then I couldn't do it. My top reading speed that still enables total comprehension is a blindingly fast 40pgs/hr. About two thirds of that if it's non-fiction.

Mar 8, 2012, 4:32pm Top

The benefit and curse of an education that taught sight reading rather than phonics. - to this day I have a terrible time reading out loud as so many words are hard for me to pronounce. But if I can read just for myself I am home free. Trouble is I become so immersed in the book that if the fire alarm went off, I probably wouldn't hear it!

Mar 8, 2012, 4:37pm Top

I read almost 200 books in 2011. I figured out once that I read a book about every 2 point something days. As far as reading a novel in a day, well there are novels and there are novels. It can take me a week to get through something like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or Anathem but I can manage lots of of light weight sf/fantasy/mysteries in a day, or even a couple of hours of uninterrupted reading time.

Mar 8, 2012, 7:45pm Top

That's it exactly!

Mar 8, 2012, 7:50pm Top

>50 tardis:
Or an YA novel :)

I usually average ~120-150 books/year mark - but it depends what you count as books.
I read a lot of comics and if you count these, the numbers go high
I also read a lot of magazines - of the ones with a lot of words and no so many pictures and ads (literary magazines, short story magazines, Harper's, Atlantic, New Yorker, Foreign Affairs - this type of things).
Add to this online stories reading and the count does not always add up to what I really read.

Mar 8, 2012, 11:20pm Top

Tinking back over the last couple of years, I believe I average more than a book a wek, but certainly not two. Probably leaves me somewhere in the seventies for the year. I do a fair amount of re-reading in between, usually at bedtime, but I don't count those.

Mar 9, 2012, 7:47am Top

Put me with WholeHouseLibrary and Phocion's average. I get through about 12 books a year.

Mar 9, 2012, 7:50am Top

I think another factor that fits into this question is does "reading" a book constitute getting from page 1 to the end. Some people will count a book as read if they've gotten at least two chapters into it, even if they throw it across the room and never actually complete it.

Mar 9, 2012, 11:49am Top

55> I can only speak for myself in that, but if I don't finish a book, I don't count it. I also don't count newspapers (1 per day), magazines (maybe 3/month), and books on tape (irregular). Not to mention reading LibraryThing Talk, especially the Green Dragon! That's got to be worth 15-20 novels all by itself :)

Mar 9, 2012, 12:24pm Top

>55 gilroy:

I always finish books* and I count them only after I am done with them

* Can take a few years, a few continents and in a few cases, a few copies of the book :)

Mar 9, 2012, 1:33pm Top

Same here, I only count a book as 'read' if I've actually finished it. If I counted books I started then stopped because they were awful. my numbers would probably be in to 70's or 80's per year instead of 40-60.

Mar 11, 2012, 5:43pm Top

Dear me, this must be the most boring thread in the universe!

Mar 11, 2012, 6:07pm Top

Well it is now.

Mar 11, 2012, 6:36pm Top

I think the only time I ever read as few as 10 books in a year might have been when I was very young and didn't have many books even counting re-reading them. Plus had school and I don't count textbooks in my reading, plus had to be outside playing. Ever since I've been able to purchase my own books, I've read as many as I could get my hands on. I never thought of keeping track of what or how many I read until I found LibraryThing. Last year I only managed 59. The year before was probably more, and this year so far is already 22 with a goal of 144 as I'm participating in the "12 in 12" challenge.

Mar 11, 2012, 8:28pm Top

Dear me, this must be the most boring thread in the universe!

THIS thread scarcely budges the needle on the Boring-O-Meter. I've seen boring threads....

Mar 15, 2012, 5:29pm Top

Tell me more!

Mar 15, 2012, 9:40pm Top

Well, for openers, there's The dullest blog in the world....

Mar 16, 2012, 5:40pm Top

That is an excellent blog. I understand many things better now.

Mar 16, 2012, 7:03pm Top

Comment 64, but it is fascinating!
Don't stand when you can sit, don't sit when you can lie down.
My philosophy exactly.
My best moments have been experienced lying down!

Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 11:05pm Top

In averaging my last six years of reading (only started keeping track of things in 2006), I find I've read 101 books per year. I'm disabled and stuck at home most days, so I have quite a lot of time for reading.

Those numbers only count new books read and not re-reads. I read 152 in 2010 but became ridiculously burnt out on mediocre fiction so I cut back a fair bit. Now I'm just reading more non-fiction, so the numbers are going up again. I don't know how my mother can read endless modern mysteries, when she fully admits that a lot of the series writers just recycle plots. Even if I'm reading good mysteries (Stout and Sayers and Christie), I only do one a month by any given author.

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