May 19, 2022

Just Released: New Indicators on Book Reading Behavior, Time Spent Reading, and Reading of Specific Types of Humanities-Related Works

From the Humanities Indicators Project/American Academy of Arts and Sciences:

Reading Habits

As of 2017, Americans spent an average of almost 17 minutes per day reading for personal interest (as compared to almost three hours watching television and 28 minutes playing games and using computers for leisure). The average is down about five minutes since 2003.

Younger Americans (ages 15 to 44) spent, on average, less than 10 minutes per day reading for personal interest.

The percentage of American adults who read at least one book for pleasure in the previous year fell to the lowest level on record in 2017 (below 53%). The greatest decline in book-reading rates occurred among adults under the age of 55.

Direct to Reading Habits Data/Charts

Time Spent Reading

Reading is a foundational activity for the humanities, but recent years have seen a downward trend in the amount of reading Americans do in their leisure time. The share of American adults who report they read at least one book for pleasure in the previous year has declined. As described here, the average amount of time American adults spend reading for personal interest has also fallen, with decline evident among Americans of virtually every age, amount of education, and income level.

Direct to Time Spent Reading Data/Charts

Reading Topics

As of 2017, about 40% of American adults had read at least one type of humanistic text in the past year. The rates were similar for literature, history, biography, as well as religion and spirituality. Only 12% reported reading poetry (up modestly from the 2013 survey).

For most types of reading material (the exception being religious and spiritual texts), Americans with more formal education had higher reading rates. Over 55% of Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree had read a novel or short story in the past year, and approximately half had read a work of history. In comparison, less than 35% of Americans with only a high school education had read either type of work

Direct to Reading Topics Data/Charts

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.