Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

How did the 2020 pandemic affect the amount people read?

Hey y’all! I know it’s not an original question, and it’s one we’ve all been talking about for a year now: how is the pandemic affecting our reading habits? For many people, it’s crippled them, as the downtime to read has diminished. Kids are at home, commutes are no longer free time to read, and so many potential other stressed might just be keeping your brain from relaxing enough to really sink into a story.

But for other people, they’ve read way more than usual. I fell into that camp, in large part because I was out of work or part-time for the vast majority of the year and so had a lot of time to fill. For me, it was also a much needed escape from the fears and pressures of daily life.

4,604,999 books
4,534,121 books
4,204,775 books
4,085,516 books
3,929,645 books
3,929,512 books
3,883,823 books
3,748,003 books
3,738,209 books
3,521,706 books

I saw this on Goodreads the other day in the list of shelves people use, ordered by how many people have a book tagged to that shelf name. It’s pretty common to have shelves with years to keep track (because it wasn’t that long ago that the Goodreads challenge didn’t count re-reads 🙄) as you can see below. Interestingly, it looks like people were reading a little more every year since 2014, although there are so many other variables that could be at play. Goodreads was also getting a lot more popular in that timeframe, so more users overall will of course result in more tags. But still, the general trend is upward. So where does 2020 come in?

2020: 4,928,146 Books
2020: 4,928,146 Books

350,000 more books?! JEEZ! I will point out that 2017 to 2018 also saw a comparable jump for some reason, but that is still a significant increase. I am really curious of what tags/shelves saw the highest percentage increases in 2020. Like, did people suddenly flip to reading a lot of romantic comedies, and comics, and lighthearted escapist things? Or did they sink into the morbid of how it could be worse and read about hatred and murders and plagues worse than our current one?

Personally, I did a bit of both. Some months, I read all the dark tales of woe I could get my hands on. And some months, I read silly comics that made me smile and forget any stress for a little while.

I imagine 2020 had an awkward sort of evening out. For a lot of us who tend to read abundantly, our habits dropped off and dwindled. Then on the other side of things are those who rarely read at all and suddenly found time to get back to it with limited other options. How many people read their first book in years last year? I would wager many.

Anyway, just a little observation I found while stumbling through Goodreads data. Take care, y’all!


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

3 thoughts on “How did the 2020 pandemic affect the amount people read?

    1. Happy to hear it, thanks! I find this fascinating as well. The stories that data can tell about a person or a culture is pretty incredible. Now if only I could get someone from Goodreads to pull all the numbers for me… xD


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