Female, Younger Readers Biggest Fiction Fans

October 7, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Media & Entertainment | Men | Retail & E-Commerce | Women | Youth & Gen X

Women who have read a book in the past year are more likely to say they read a fiction book than men, according to results from a new Harris Poll.

Women, Younger Readers Slightly Favor Fiction
Among US women 18 and older who have read at least one book in the past year, 84% say they have read a fiction book. In contrast, 73% of male readers have read a fiction book.


Interest in fiction also peaks with the youngest adult readers and declines with age. Eighty-four percent of Echo Boomers 18-33 who have read a book in the past year have read a fiction book, compared to 76% of both Baby Boomers 46-64 and Matures 65 and older.

Women Like Thrillers and Romance
Female fiction readers have read mystery/thriller/crime books at a much higher rate than male readers (57% compared to 39%), although it is the most popular genre for both genders. The most pronounced difference is in the rate of reading romance books (37% of women compared to 3% of men), which constitute the second-most-popular female genre but least popular female genre.

Even chick lit, which has been read in the past year by 12% of female readers and 4% of male readers, edges out romance in popularity among men. Fiction genres with a strong imbalance favoring male readers include science fiction (32% of men, 20% of women), literature (27% of men, 22% of women) and graphic novels (15% of men, 8% of women).

Genre Tastes Vary Widely by Age
Preference for particular genres of fiction varies widely with each individual age bracket. Echo Boomer readers have much stronger preferences for literature (42% compared to 24% overall), graphic novels (18% compared to 11%), and chick lit (14% compared to 8% overall) than other age groups.

Gen X 34-45 fiction readers have tastes fairly similar to the overall average. Baby Boomers are most marked by a much lower rate of reading literature (13%), while Mature fiction readers have stronger preferences for the mystery/thriller/crime (61% compared to 48% overall) and Western (9% compared to 5% overall) genres.

Mystery/thriller/crime was the most-read fiction genre in all brackets except Echo Boomers, where it slightly trailed literature with 41% of readers in this age group having read a mystery book in the past year.

Fiction Authors Dominate Top 10 Author List
All 10 authors on the list of Top 10 favorite authors predominantly write fiction. Number one Stephen King primarily writes in the mystery/thriller/crime genre, as do James Patterson, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz and Dan Brown.


Two authors on the list are best-known for writing romance novels: Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele, while two fantasy authors who best fit the science fiction category also make the list: J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkein. Tolkein is the only deceased author on the list.

Brown, Grisham Had 2009 Best Sellers
Interestingly, only two of the top 10 favorite authors released books in 2009 that made The Nielsen Company‘s best-seller lists that year. Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” ranked number one, while John Grisham placed “The Associate” at number four hardcover and number 10 paperback.

About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between August 9 and 16, 2010 among 2,775 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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