Sunday, October 17, 2010

Interesting Stats From a Harris Poll

Recently, I was reading about a Harris poll conducted among 2,775 American adults who’d read at least one book in the past year. The poll found that half of the adults had read a novel and the other half had read nonfiction. 48% of the fiction readers said they read mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels, while 25% said they read science fiction. This surprised me, as I thought it would be the other way around. Another 25% said they read literature, although that somewhat ambiguous term wasn’t defined. 21% of those polled also claimed to read romance novels and 11% said they read graphic novels. 8% of readers read chick-lit and 5% read westerns.

Among the nonfiction readers, 31% read histories, 29% biographies, 26% religious and spirituality books. Political books were read by 17%, self-help books by 16%, current affairs were at 14% and true crime was reading by 12% of readers. Business books came in at only 10%.

I found it interesting that 42% of the 18 to 33 age group were reading literature, and that only 18% of this group were reading graphic novels. Readers 65 years or more were more likely to read crime novels (61%) and westerns (9%). Not surprisingly, 57% of women read mysteries, but only 39% of the men polled read in this genre. Needless to say, far more women read romances than men, although 3% of the men did. Women also read more chick-lit and religious books, however 32% of men read science fiction compared to 20% of women. When it came to nonfiction, however, more men than women were reading history, political and business books.

Not a lot seems to have changed over the years, except perhaps the increased interest in graphic novels. But as a mystery writer, it’s good to know that a lot of people still enjoy them. A savvy mystery writer will pay particular attention to the general tastes of women 65 or over. In the mystery world, authors are often warned to never kill or abuse a cat or a child in their story. The demographics in this poll could explain why.

My amateur sleuth, Vancouver-based, Alex Bellamy mysteries can be purchased at

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