The Reading Habits Of Five Generations [Infographic]

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reading habits

I’ll admit, I’m not great at remembering which generation is which, and I do get a kick out of how people like to pit one against another. I guess that’s just the way we do everything these days. OK Boomers vs. Millennials. Gen Z vs. Gen X. And is it wrong that I didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Silent Generation? That doesn’t sound very supportive, especially as they were preceded by the Greatest Generation. Who gets to name these groups, anyway?

My personal issues aside, the folks at Best By The Numbers put together the infographic below charting the reading habits of five generations: Generation Z (age 5-25), Millennials (age 26–40), Generation X (age 41–55), Baby Boomers (age 56–75), and The Silent Generation (age 76–95). So it’s time to pick your favorite, select your nemesis, and bend the numbers to support your preconceptions.

But seriously, there is some interesting information here, and seeing how different generations consume, select, and engage with their reading materials is enlightening — and sometimes surprising. Among other things, now we know:

  • Gen Z prefers fantasy to other genres.
  • Millennials read more books than other generations.
  • Gen X reads more online news than other generations.
  • Baby Boomers rely on best-seller lists to find their books.
  • The Silent Generation spends the most time reading each day.
  • A preference for physical books spans all generations.

Check out the infographic for more insights into the reading habits of the different generations.

reading habits

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41 COMMENTS

  1. This is good information to see, though I am a fantasy author and I aimed my books for Generation Z and Millennials yet when it came to who buys and reads it, over 50% my market is Baby-boomers and Silent Generation. Seeing this article and knowing who is more likely to pick up which genera is good, but never assume that is the only generation that will enjoy your book.

    • Have to agree. As a boomer I’m more likely to read exactly what they said – I love thrillers and mysteries/suspense. However, I’ve been known to get into fantasy on occasion, and lately, I’ve been reading more of it. The past few years I’ve also been reading more dystopian novels. But in the long run, what matters to me is that it is a great yarn with well-written plots and characters.

  2. I don’t know the age of my readers. I do know that as a baby boomer, I have never relied on bestseller lists to choose my reading material. I choose a book by the title and back cover blurb for authors I haven’t read before and by the author’s name for auto buy books. A book could have the worst cover in the world, but if the blurb intrigues me, I will buy it.

    We are all individuals. I have no idea why someone doing some study is always trying to pidgeon-hole people.

    • I agree with most of what you said. I have never picked a book based on the best seller lists either. I like all types of books. I go to the library often except the ones that closed due to the pandemic. I prefer watching and listening to the news. Take Care.

  3. I just discovered the existence of the Silent Generation of which I am a part. I always thought I was a Boomer. I mostly hung out with younger people. I guess being born in 1944 puts me on the cusp. However, I don’t fit the category at all. I do go to the library. A lot of Silents are too old to get to a library. I read more than half of my books on a Kindle. I hate mysteries. I love speculative fiction and Sci-Fi.

    • I, being born in 1943, was once part of the baby boom, back when it was based on population stats. There were for more of us than those I. My sister’s group, born in 1941. Once a narrative was formed, based on soldiers coming home, the narrative drove the taxonomy rather than population figures. “Silents” groups us with those born in the 30’s, which seems a stretch. I fit the part about reading lots. I read more Re than two hours most days. As a retired English teacher, Imhave a house filled with books, some of which are in boxes labell, Eng 19C novels, Eng 18C novels. Medieval, French and Italian, and so on. I alo read and reread, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse. And I read books from one of my sons on Classical History. Though I am have read Tolkien and the Narnia books five or six times and Harry Potter once, I find most current fantasy, nearly unreadable. I read one of the Fire and Ice books and loathed it. I read Anathem and merely disliked it, not loathed.

    • After 9/11 it was decided that they (Gen Y) no longer were defined by “no event” which is the reason for Generation X, being that the letter X stands for “no name”. Calling them Millennials seemed to signify the biggest event of their life without specifically referring to the great tragedy. So it was about 17-18 years ago that social scientists changed the name. Cohort groups are an important identification in value preferences which is a large part of what all kind of social scientists measure. It is not pitting one group against another, but gathering factual information about the compositions of cohorts that allow one to make meaningful evaluations. Does it apply to reading choices? I have no idea, but it is very important in lots of other areas of value preferences. If you are trying to understand almost anything about a society you will include generational cohorts in your analysis.

  4. Fascinating, to say the least! I also did not know there is a “Silent Generation” and wonder why its name. I am certainly not planning to be silent, even when I (soon) will enter that category!

    • I think they were dubbed that after the next generation turned the culture on its ear in everything from anti-war demonstrations to drugs to music to the sexual revolution—anything but silent.

  5. Taxonomy. Born in 1943, I was early on considered part of the Baby Boom since there were so much more of us than the kids of 42, 41, and 40. When the definition became causal (soldiers coming home) rather than purely statistical, sudden my group was not included. OK. Recently my son (echo of baby boom) told me of a new system, which had Pre-Boomers between Silents and Boomers. Some click bait site came to me claiming the Pre-Boomers eat better, exercise more, and suffer obesity less than Boomers. Whatever. Oh and the Silents (to me, not Real Grownups, just The Big Kids) –the Silents were the ones who made Rock and Roll popular. As my calculus teacher said, “Never underestimate the power of a definition. Currently I’m reading Trollope’s Ralph The Heir, a break from re-reading Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly.

  6. Based on the stats offered below it, one heading should read “More Millennials read books than any other generation” rather than “Millennials read more books than any other generation.” Same for “More teenage girls read fiction” and “More teenage boys read comic books.” Small quibbles. Thanks for compiling/posting this.

  7. […] Take any data set and slice and dice, and you can come up with whatever you want, so of course you shouldn’t put too much weight on this research into generational differences in reading preferences. Even the definition of generations is a variable. Still, The Passive Voice gives us this list of reading preferences by generation which originates at the BookBaby Blog. […]

  8. Surprised that Boomers read thrillers. Myself and many of my female friends read historical ficion and memoir. As a librarian I was aware that men and boys prefer history and fantasy. I taught all genres. Many Boomers have turned to writing – short stories, memoir, poetry, book reviews and yes even novels!

  9. A lot of us Millennials / Gen Y-ers have been reading several books lately because we are raising our young. We need to read to them and many of us are homeschooling thanks to COVID-19. I don’t have time to read a 200+ pager for enjoyment anymore like I used to in my middleschool and highschool days. The things I have been reading online are mainly teaching sources and researching work-from-home opportunities. One year, I listened to e-books while doing the dishes / laundry / cleaning / driving. Thanks for the fascinating information!
    -Sleepless in Texas

  10. Great article. There is too much useful information in this article for you. The way you use infographics to convey information is easy to understand and compelling. I’m a millennial, and the information you gave me is very true. Thanks to your article, I can understand my kids better. Thank you

  11. Thank you, very informative!
    My reading habits are reflected in this infographic with surprising accuracy (millennial). The only thing is that I read a lot more at work (3-4 hours almost every day) since it’s part of my responsibilities.
    This statistic can really be the basis for thematic planning and book promotion.

  12. We were the war babies…BELIEVE ME I have never been silent! Also I read all types of books and have a library of over one thousand books that include everything. I choose my own books and do not belong to reading groups. Usually I read up to three hours a day. My age is eighty, feel like sixty, and work like forty.. Definitely not silent!

  13. Never heard of the silent generation, and am certainly not silent! My mouth gets me into predicaments,am opinionated.I prefer biographies ,nonfiction and historical fiction. Am director of a book club, mostly older generation, and a variety of books each month. My first sentence was “ I want to read a book”, and I certainly have quite a lot of books!

  14. I’m 58 and actually fit much of the silent generation’s data. I read and write daily. I read every genre but mostly historical fiction, and self-help and inspirational books.

  15. I’m Gen X. I do read a lot online. I’m am not a fan of ebooks, though I have a tablet. I just prefer touching the pages over swiping. My biggest love is non-fiction, particularly history, social sciences, life sciences, and religion. I generally read fiction in the form of Mangas these days. I know, odd for a Gen X female. However, I think the bulk of my reading comes from an unmentioned category: subtitled foreign films and tv series. I lived abroad for several years so I tire of listening to English sometimes. While versatile, it is not the most melodious of languages.

  16. I find it hard to believe that a quarter of all baby boomers spend an hour a day reading the Bible. And how does this reconcile with the adjacent statistic that says they spend 26 minutes a day reading. I’m missing something.

  17. I’m a boomer and my all time favorites are autobiographies, next up mystery, sci-fi, humor (Wodehouse junkie), spy novels and thrillers, and guilty pleasure easy read love and romance. Some of the off the wall romantic comedies are surprisingly good.

  18. I love this info but as becomes apparent in the comments, just like dating, age is just a number. To attempt to classify us by generation is a lost cause.

    But, having said that, it is good for generalizations and good to see the millennials as a group love to read.

  19. At 78, an official ‘silent’ generation, I read a book a day, love historical and western and regency romances, and am writing my own historical romances set in Alberta, Canada. I have 2 books already published and doing final editing on the third. My personal library contains over 600 books, mostly historical and regency romance, a few contemporary romance and westerns, including the complete works of Louis L’Amour. I used to frequent the library but now blow my pension on Amazon adding to my bookshelves. Life is so good!

  20. Gen X (age 46) here who reads classic literature, nonfiction (history, religion/spirituality, theology, sociology, psychology), and historical fiction. I prefer print books. I order from Thriftbooks if possible. I will resort to Amazon or Ebay if necessary. I never read craft/hobby books.

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