Friday, October 8, 2010

The Thrill Isn't Gone, but Romance is Waning

According to a report in Publishers Weekly, a recently conducted Harris Poll about readers' preferences for fiction revealed that mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels were preferred twice as much as romance novels.

Graphic novels, chick-lit, and westerns were the least popular fiction books among readers polled.

Another interesting statistic is that more women than men read mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels.

Hmm. So what does this mean?

For me, it kinda makes sense. I read mysteries and thrillers but few crime novels or romance. From a fairness standpoint, lumping three categories together seems to bias the poll in favor of the those categories.

I'm wondering if respondents would've been asked about their preferences separately about mysteries, thrillers, and crime novels what the results would have been. How would those individual categories stack up against romance and other categories?

On the non-fiction side, histories, biographies, and religious or spiritual books topped the poll. Business books bottomed out on the list. No surprise there. Ho-hum with the business books.

While poll results like these make interesting reading, who is being polled and the way the questions are asked can impact on the results. What really counts is the type of books readers buy.

Read the Publishers Weekly article to read a summary of the results and the names of some of the respondents' favorite authors.


  1. I had heard westerns were making a comeback. I am very eclectic in my reading, but I like mystery, and nostalgia and memoir.

  2. I read a little bit of everything, but not too much romance these days. And nothing with vampires or zombies, either.

  3. Children's books across the board (except fantasy, which I rarely read)top my reading list along with history, science, poetry and the classics.

  4. Hi Donna! I always find polls to be somewhat "entertaining"! I take it all with a grain of salt. It's like movie and book reviews...Just because "someone" does or doesn't like something, doesn't mean I'll have the same opinion. Like you said, if you lump certain types together, that changes the way numbers might add up. Also, what age group was polled? How many were male and female, etc? Thanks for posting this!

  5. I agree with Patricia--down with vampires! I don't really care much for fantasy at all. But I can see your point. I read crime novels and thrillers (of the Michael Crichton/John Grisham variety), but not mysteries. So lumping the three together doesn't make sense to me.

  6. It's always interesting to see the trends. I tend to read pretty widely so at least I'll always have some choices :)

  7. I agree with Linda (I love memoirs) and like Patricia, I'm not into vampire pieces, although a book called Fevre Dream by George R.R. Walker (about a vampire that commissions a riverboat in the 1800's, so he can discontinue killing) is one of the best books I've read. (I think that it is, sadly, out of print.) Becky is right in that it matters what age group was polled. Like Dianna, I read the Grisham/Crichton type of "thrillers" but find those books often straddle multiple categories. Mystery/thriller and crime (n my mind) often co-mingle.

    Donna---You're so right about what's important. What people buy, what they value enough to spend money on---that tells us far more than what types of books we "enjoy."

  8. I try to read a little bit of everything, though against the trend, I don't enjoy crime and thrillers. I never read fantasy.

  9. I'm with Becky--if it was jut PW readers who were polled, is that a fair representation of all readers? You always post such interesting stuff--thanks!

  10. I'm not surprised to hear romance didn't fare well in a poll. The $$ trail disagrees, though. The problem with romance is that a lot of readers are embarrassed to admit they love reading romance. The old "bodice ripper" book covers were changed to more generic covers for just that reason; people were embarrassed to carry the books around! LOL I don't think romance or chick lit is in danger of extinction, in any event. Also, you'd be surprised how many thrillers are written by romance writers who use the thriller platform to write what is still, essentially, a romance, i.e. Linda Howard, Karen Robards, Kay Hooper, Elizabeth Lowell, etc. The library files them under the "thriller" genre, but they are really "romantic thrillers". And yes, I do read them! I love a good romance, especially if there is a strong thriller/mystery/horror story to go with it!

  11. I agree with Lisa. I think that in terms of sales, romance is right up at the top. People just prefer to sound a little more "sophisticated" in their reading habits!


  12. Donna, I just wanted to say that I often go down the list of your bloggers and read their entries. Everyone has so many interesting, helpful thoughts to share. Thank you all a whole lot.


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