How Many Books Does the Average American Read?

Did you ever ask yourself whether you read enough? You hear your friends talking about new books and how good they are and get the feeling you should pick up a new book soon.

But how many books does the average American read per year? According to the Pew Research Center which conducts a survey every year, the average American reads 12 books per year. This value is nearly unchanged since the beginning of the research in 2011. Print books are still leading the statistics with 67% but e-books and audiobooks start to catch up.

This number is a rough average and influenced by many factors like gender, age, type, country and more. Keep on reading to find out what the average number of books in your category is.

When it comes to reading the following statements are true

According to the research of 2018, a couple of trends can be seen when it comes to reading any kind of book in the last 12 month. 2002 adults aged 18 and older, living in all U.S states where interviewed about their reading habits.

  • Women (75%) read more than men (73%)
  • The younger people are the more they read
    18-29: 84%
    30-49: 74%
    50-64: 71%
    and only 67% of 65+ years reported they have read a book
  • The higher the education, the more people read (not really surprising, 92% of College graduates said they have read a book in the past year compared to 40% of adults with an education less than high school)
  • White people read more than black people who read more than Hispanics
  • The more you learn (read) the more you earn – The statistic shows a clear relationship between the average salary and the number of books someone reads
  • Printed books are still the by far the first choice when it comes to reading – take a look at the statistics below
Infographic: E-Books Are No Match for Printed Books (Yet) | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

If you are interested in more details from the Pew Research Center from you can find the detailed results here.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” 

How much books can you read before you die

Now that we know the average number of books an American reads we can calculate the number of books you could read if you get on it right now. Emily Temple over at Literary Hub used the result from the Pew Research Center above together with the Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator to come up with a table of how many books men or women can still read before it is too late. In the tables below the average reader reads 12, the voracious reader 50 and the super reader 80 books per year. Take a look and you will see that it is not too late!


AgeAverage readerVoracious readerSuper reader


AgeAverage readerVoracious readerSuper reader

Well, there is still plenty of room for self-improvement! And taking a look at people that are leaders because they are readers is another argument to pick up your next book immediately. Let’s take a look at what 5 of the most influential people do recommend.

What do the richest and most influential Americans read?

It doesn’t really come as a surprise that wealthy and influential people like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet read 50 books or more per year. The habit of accumulating much more knowledge than the average person is one of the reasons why they are who they are today. So let’s take a look at what some of the top people of our time recommend which should answer your (and my) question: What should I read next? I put an Amazon link below each one of them (Disclaimer, that will grant me a small commission to support my website)

Bill Gates: Mindset – The New Psychology of Success

After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. 

Carol S. Dweck

Jeff Bezos: Built to last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day — as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations. 
Jim Collins & Jerry I. Porras

Tim Cook: Competing against time

Today, time is the cutting edge. In fact, as a strategic weapon, contend George Stalk, Jr., and Thomas M. Hout, time is the equivalent of money, productivity, quality, even innovation. In this path-breaking book based upon ten years of research, the authors argue that the ways leading companies manage time in production, in new product development, and in sales and distribution represent the most powerful new sources of competitive advantage.
George Stalk

Warren Buffet: The smartest guys in the room

The Enron scandal brought down one of the most admired companies of the 1990s. Countless books and articles were written about it, but only The Smartest Guys in the Room holds up a decade later as the definitive narrative. For this tenth anniversary edition, McLean and Elkind have revisited the fall of Enron and its aftermath, in a new chapter that asks why Enron still matters. 
Bethany McLean

Mark Zuckerberg: Portfolios of the Poor

Nearly forty percent of humanity lives on an average of two dollars a day or less. If you’ve never had to survive on an income so small, it is hard to imagine. How would you put food on the table, afford a home, and educate your children? How would you handle emergencies and old age? Every day, more than a billion people around the world must answer these questions. 
Daryl Collins

All of these great people recommend many books. This selection is my personal choice from which I have not read all but think I could benefit the most – so I picked up a copy of Portfolios of the Poor.

Another major factor when it comes to reading is the country someone is from

Another statistic I found on Statista clearly shows that many of the so-called first world countries do not read that much compared to less developed countries. As you can see according to the NOP World Culture Score Index, India is the country that reads the most. People there spend nearly double the time with books than the average American. I experience this first hand every day, my Udemy courses and Exam taking Apps are primarily bought by Indian customers. They are highly motivated and often write to me with detailed questions and requests for additional material.

Infographic: Which countries read the most? | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Unfortunately, the data doesn’t say what they read but from my experience with Indian customers and the time I have lived in China, I can clearly see the degree of motivation to get ahead in life is much higher than in “Western” countries. When did you last read a non-fiction book? Probably it is time to grab one not to be left behind!

Related Questions

How many books does a CEO read in 1 year? A survey that was conducted by the Fast Company revealed that the average number of books a successful CEO read is about 60 per year. Voracious readers do not only read 5 books per month, e.g. one of the worlds most successful readers like Warren Buffett claims to read as much as 500 pages every day.

How much should I read every day? You should read for 50 minutes every day. If you want to be among the most successful people in the world read 5 books/month. The average book can be read in about 5 hours hence 25 hours or 1500 minutes/month divided by 30 days equals 50 minutes/day.

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