So many books, so little time! Between self-publishing and an increase in small presses, the number and variety of books available are greater than ever before. Voracious readers want to read as many books as they can get their hands on.
You can read around 710 books in a lifetime. The number of books you can read in a lifetime depends on many factors, including an individual’s lifespan, the book length, and your reading speed. Women living to 86 average 735 books and men living to 82 average 684.
Factors impacting the final sum include personal longevity, the book’s length, and the speed at which you read. Additionally, audiobooks have changed the reading process, increasing the number of volumes we can ingest by expanding our opportunities to read. The rest of this article will go over the various factors that impact how many books a person can read in a lifetime.
Factors that influence how many books you can read in a lifetime include the following:
- Your lifespan
- The length of the book
- How fast you read
- Your reading method
I’ll discuss these factors in more detail in the following sections.
Lifespans vary. Many factors influence how many years we get on this earth, some in our control, others not. Those who live longer lives probably read more books. Most children learn to read at around six or seven years old, which already puts us a few years behind. However, we can use polls, history, and statistical probability to estimate how many books a person will read per year.
This chart breaks down the annual readership of three different levels of readers: average, voracious, and super readers. While these numbers are approximate, we can use them to calculate a reasonable cumulative estimate:
|Reading Level||Annual Books Read|
Of course, relying on this framework requires a steady and static pace. Some years are busier, allowing less reading time. Some years you may just feel more motivated than others.
Additionally, different locations have different life expectancies. Generally speaking, women live longer than men, allowing them to add more books to their “read” list.
Lifespan is a sobering variable. However, the length of a book allows some degree of individual control over our book tally. The Monster at the End of this Book reads faster than Ulysses, but the short books we read as children still count towards our lifetime list.
There are less extreme examples; volumes range from 100 pages to 1000. While shorter books can be written in challenging language that demands more time, we generally finish shorter books faster.
While we may not, initially, deem genre a relevant consideration to book length, generally speaking, the categories matter. Most readers adhere to one genre, impacting their lifetime reading list.
This chart breaks down the word count of each genre:
|Early Reader Books||200-3500|
|Middle School Books||25,000-40,000|
|Mainstream Romance Novels||70,000-100,000|
|Sub-Genre Romance Novels||40,000-100,000|
|Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels||90,000-120,000|
|Historical Fiction Novels||80,000-100,000|
|Thrillers, Horror, Mystery and Crime Novels||70,000-90,000|
|Young Adult Novels||50,000-80,000|
|Non-Fiction (Business, Politics, Psychology and history) books||70,000-80,000|
|How-to and Self-help books||40,000-50,000|
Even within this rubric, there’s room for variation. Readers may opt for novellas over novels. These smaller volumes clock in between 30 and 50 thousand words, while full novels run from 50 to 110 thousand words.
Reading a book isn’t a fixed-speed activity, unlike watching a movie or listening to music. Some people read incredibly swiftly, and others take their time. Both ability and preference dictate reading speed. Some people read for volume, and some prefer to luxuriate in a book.
Of course, faster readers rack up heavier bookshelves. Someone who reads a book in two days will probably complete more volumes in their lifetime than a slower reader.
A multitude of factors impacts reading speed. These include:
- The books being read
Speed reading is not, in and of itself, a virtue. Reading too quickly can compromise comprehension.
This chart accrues data culled from a 2019 study on reading speeds to establish the average word consumption at each age:
|6-7 years||53-111 words per minute|
|7-8 years||89-149 words per minute|
|8-9 years||107-162 words per minute|
|9-10 years||123-180 words per minute|
|10-11 years||139-194 words per minute|
|12-14 years||150-204 words per minute|
|14-18 years||200-300 words per minute|
|18-23 years||300-350 words per minute|
|23 years and over||220-350 words per minute|
These figures are variable. Various factors affect reading rates from experience to experience. For example, studying a statistical analysis text takes longer than devouring a New York Times best-seller.
If an individual reader chooses to expand the completed section of their library, they may choose to speed read. The skill is a great deal like running. With the appropriate training and commitment, the individual can increase their speed markedly.
The way in which you read can significantly influence how many books you can read in your lifetime. For example, reading the old fashion way (opening a book and reading to yourself) typically takes longer than listening to audiobooks.
The popularity of services like Audible has significantly increased book consumption via listening. Audiobooks are convenient and portable; folks can listen to them on their morning commute or during their afternoon jog. Many readers are turning to audiobooks to ingest their literature.
Audiobooks allow listeners to enjoy books at times they wouldn’t be able to otherwise, like:
The statistics on audiobooks are ever-evolving. However, a 2020 survey revealed a steady increase in audiobook listening since the previous year. American listeners averaged 8.1 annual audiobooks.
Multiple sources provide audiobooks, making them increasingly accessible. This medium ups our lifelong book average since it makes it possible to consume books at times we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
As readers, we want to fit the most books possible into our lifetime. We understand that time is finite, and we won’t be able to read every book.
A slew of factors dictates how many books we can read, including individual lifespan, the length of the books read, and each person’s reading pace.
Your reading method is also a significant factor that determines how many books you can read in your lifetime, as audiobooks are typically a quicker way to enjoy the books we value. Time is precious; read good books!