World Book Day
The Most popular book genres worldwide
Taking place on the 23rd of April every year, World Book Day is a day to celebrate the joys of books and reading and to encourage reading enjoyment.Regardless of the type of books you choose, the undeniable reality is that the world would not be the same without books. They have been teaching and inspiring us for hundreds of years, so World Book Day is more than just a well-deserved celebration.
In honor of this day, we’ve been trawling through figures and statistics to give you the low-down on the book genres that are most read by readers around the world. By looking at the google search volume for each book genre in different countries, both in English and in their native language, we created a map that showcases which book genres were most searched in each country.
What people read around the world?
Books continue to be a significant part of our lives, with reading being a popular pastime for many people. Indeed, a typical person reads 12 to 13 novels each year, and how people choose what to read has long piqued the curiosity of researchers. As a result, book publishing has a huge market size worldwide, with revenue reaching $122 billion in 2023.
There are several book genres in the realm of literature. The various genres are geared towards different audiences in order to suit a variety of demands. Some readers are drawn to poetry, while others are drawn to mystery or romance. But which book genres are the most popular and what do people read around the world? The answer depends and differs from country to country.
- Romance, classic, and poetry books are at the top of the list in popularity among readers worldwide.
- You are far more likely to find classic books in the homes of English speaking countries
- Horror books are the most popular book genre in Latin countries, whereas fantasy books are the most popular in Europe.
- Asians searched on the internet for “poetry books” more than any other book genre.
- The thriller novel genre rules supreme in Dutch-speaking countries, whereas Norwegian readers choose crime fiction above other genres.
Romance books are hogging the limelight
◉ France ◉ Hungary ◉ Venezuela ◉ South Africa ◉ Spain ◉ Brazil ◉ Portugal ◉ Romania ◉Greece
What floats your boat when you read? If you said poetry, classic or romance books you’re in good company. According to our data, these three genres are at the top of the list in popularity among readers worldwide with Romance dominating and outselling fantasies, classics, poetry, adventure books and all other genres. One could very easily assume French preference for romance books given their “city of love” sobriquet. Apart from its stunning beauty and very romantic lifestyle, some of the world’s best love stories actually came from here. It’s also interesting to note that readers in Venezuela read both romance and horror books at about the same level.
Romance fiction is a billion-dollar genre, with unit sales topping 47 million last year, representing an increase of 24% from the previous year, according to NPD. They are so ubiquitous they are sold everywhere. You can find them at grocery stores, local pharmacies, bookstores and everywhere online.
I guess we’re all suckers for love stories; and for book lovers, it’s not hard to figure out why. These steamy stories traditionally end with “happily ever after” which brings some literary comfort food, something that many readers craved in abundance given the very turbulent times caused by Covid epidemic.
What’s with the classics in English speaking countries?
◉ Sweden ◉ Hong Kong ◉ Australia ◉ U.S ◉ U.K ◉ Ireland ◉ New Zealand
While all countries value their own classics, our data reveals that English speaking countries seem to really show a perfect storm of reverence and passion for their cultural heritage. This is particularly highlighted in England where a large number of writers are now regarded as classics. So English readers are more likely to read from their own country.
When you think about it, English language and its values have been greatly shaped by Shakespeare and other classics. So, it only makes sense that England has a stronger sense of and respect for things that endured the test of time, even if just for a hundred years or so.
There is a reason why books like Pride and Prejudice, David Copperfield, Moby-Dick are still in print, several centuries after they were first written. They are worth reading and will continue to be so for a new generation of readers.
Most popular book genres in the U.S
According to our data, the most popular genre in the U.S is classics books. This is followed by Romance and Poetry books. It is surprising to know that classic books are searched in every state of the U.S at about the same level. If we add additional filters to the search, we see that romance and poetry books are a regular staple. Other genres such as Manga, Historical Fiction and Crime books are all kept to the middle of the pack with almost similar numbers of readers searching.
If you scroll through NY times Best Sellers, you’ll see a couple of literary titles each week sandwiched between a bunch of big-name romance and fantasy authors like Colleen Hoover, Matt Haig and Nita Prose.
The graph below shows in percentages the book genres that readers in the U.S read the most:
Note: Some states in the U.S appear in two or three book genres at the same time so we included them in these percentages.
The good ol’ fantasy is hot in Europe
◉ Czech Republic ◉ Poland ◉ Germany ◉ Italy ◉ Switzerland ◉ Denmark ◉ Austria ◉Russia
It’s no surprise that we enjoy a good fantasy book here in Europe, and who can blame us? We love the detailed worldbuilding that authors construct in their books for us to immerse ourselves in. There is this use of languages—both genuine and invented—as well as the creation of new countries, civilizations, and histories that we can learn about.
The main reason for this genre to be so popular in Europe is probably because, historically, most fantasy stories focus solely on European-inspired locations. They take place in imaginary worlds full of adventure making them popular and wide appealed to readers of all ages. If you look closely at the most famous books and series of all time, you will see that fantasy genre dominates the list. A few examples are The Hobbit, the Harry Potter series, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and they are all set in Europe.
Dutch Thrillers are alive and well
◉ Belgium ◉ The Netherlands
It seems like the Dutch love to read their gripping stories full of shocking twists and turns. Thriller books in the Netherlands and Belgium are in rude health; as you’d expect from the country that gave us The Vanishing (see the Dutch original, not the lame U.S remake) adapted from the novella The Golden Egg (1984) by Tim Krabbé.
This is no wonder: thriller books dominate the market in Dutch-speaking countries. The powerful Saskia Noort has long been the bestselling grande dame of crime fiction. In 2013, she received the Master Prize for changing the Dutch thriller market.
Nordic Crime Way
Surveys have shown that Norwegians tend to be voracious readers. And it’s not just over the holidays that they’re inclined to curl up with a book. Reading is a popular pastime throughout the whole year. The genre of gloomy crime stories set in dreary Scandinavian settings — known also as Nordic noir –is a major popular cultural thing; they call it påskekrim (Easter crime).
In Norway, reading crime stories especially during Easter is as common as eating chocolate and going skiing. But between shoveling snow or skiing on it, Easter for Norwegians means drowning in crime fiction. When they don’t have a book to read, Norwegian TVs deliver a wealth of crime thrillers and horror flicks for their folks to see.
Asians and their poetry
◉ India ◉ Philippines ◉ South Africa ◉ Turkey ◉ Canada ◉ Singapore ◉ Finland
With some of the world’s oldest languages, lively storytelling traditions, and a diverse melting pot of cultures, Asia is a bookworm’s dream. From India to Singapore, Turkey, Philipines and off into the diaspora, the canon of Asian literature is both extensive and diverse.
When it comes to poetry, Asian countries have a very long tradition and are certainly obsessed with their poets. Our data reveal that the most popular book genre in Asian countries are poetry books. One can only suppose that it’s partially owing to a sense of national pride having given birth to such outstanding and world-renowned poets as Lu You, Li Bai, Wang Wei and others.
With world famous poets such as Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen, unsurprisingly poetry is the most popular genre among Canadians as well.
◉ Australia ◉ Korea ◉ Turkey
Adventure books may not be the most popular genre these days but that is not true for readers in Turkey, Australia and Korea. These are the top types of books they choose when they look for entertainment and stay-at-home activities.
And why not? A good adventure story draws us into a world we would never visit otherwise. A good adventure narrative can transport us to a realm we would never visit otherwise. We grow to care about the characters and what is important to them. We go to areas we would never choose to go and occasionally discover a spark of adventure within us that we were unaware of.
Latino culture and horror go hand in hand
◉ Venezuela ◉ Argentina ◉ Mexico
No prizes for guessing that the most popular book genre in Latin countries are horror books. I mean, they have some of the finest dark myths: La Llorona, El Cuco, El Chupacabra just to name a few. Plus, they have many terrifying mythical monsters and horror stories to scare us for a lifetime.
Ghosts are very popular down there in Latin America. Just take a cursory glance at the current lineup on famous Latino horror books. Gabriel Garca Márquez’s stories are full with ghosts and they appear very natural.
As Edwin Pagan, founder of Latinhorror.com said in an interview: Traditionally, we have always loved ghost stories and the macabre and Gothic tales,” he says. “They’re just sewn into the fabric of who we are as a people.”
To obtain the data, we used the search volume for each book genre in different countries around the world where data was available, both in English and their native language. Some countries had limited or no data at all and were excluded from the list. Due to the sampling mechanism of Google, top results are subject to change.
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