Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Why Women Read More Than Men"





By now the recent poll that indicates that a substantial portion of the American population doesn't bother with books anymore is old news. But the NPR people have put a different spin on the numbers and have come to the conclusion that the real problem with non-readers is a male problem and that women are doing considerably better.



Surveys consistently find that women read more books than men, especially fiction. Explanations abound, from the biological differences between the male and female brains, to the way that boys and girls are introduced to reading at a young age.
...
Among avid readers surveyed by the AP, the typical woman read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men. Women read more than men in all categories except for history and biography.

When it comes to fiction, the gender gap is at its widest. Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain.
...
Book groups consist almost entirely of women, and the spate of new literary blogs are also populated mainly by women.
...
Theories attempting to explain the "fiction gap" abound. Cognitive psychologists have found that women are more empathetic than men, and possess a greater emotional range—traits that make fiction more appealing to them.

Some experts see the genesis of the "fiction gap" in early childhood. At a young age, girls can sit still for much longer periods of time than boys, says Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain.

"Girls have an easier time with reading or written work, and it's not a stretch to extrapolate [that] to adult life," Brizendine says. Indeed, adult women talk more in social settings and use more words than men, she says.
...
"Reading requires incredible patience, and the ability to 'feel into' the characters. That is something women are both more interested in and also better at than men," says Brizendine.
I doubt that any of this is surprising to people like us who read numerous books and who spend time every day writing and reading book blogs. A quick check of my blog roll (on the left) showed me that only four of the thirty blogs that I've linked to are written by men, a mere thirteen percent. And, despite the fact that I live only three miles from a very actively run library, I've never joined one of the book clubs that meet there because all of the groups are 100% female from what I can tell.

Come on, guys, we need to do a bit of catching up.

14 comments:

  1. Sam, this is interesting. I like your call to action. My son (age 16), an avid reader, is starting to shift away from fiction as he gets older. He's gone from Tolkien and J.K.Rowling (and many others), through Stephen King, and Anne Rice, and is now reading Hunter Thompson. I have been urging him to not abandon fiction, but am not sure how to guide him to good fiction that is age appropriate, challenging, and masculine enough for his sensibilities. Any suggestions? (He did enjoy Kurt Vonnegut this summer also.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Becky,

    You might recommend the Harry Turtledove alternate history books. Turtledove is a history professor and he bases that type of novel on tweaking what really happened and showing how different the world would be today as a result. He has a whole series based on the premise that the South won the Civil War, for instance, and carries that all the way to modern day America. It's fascinating stuff and a painless history lesson, to boot.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As you can tell from my internet name, Sylvia, General Houston is a hero of mine. I'm fascinated by this man and the wild life that he led. In fact, I visit his grave several times a year since he's buried only about 60 miles north of me. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's true; most of us blogging out here about books are women, I've noticed. On the other hand, most of the men I know are the kind who like to read (I pass on all the best of the books I read to my husband, although admittedly he has less time than I do to read due to his work schedule).

    Funky.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Keep passing on those books, Heather, because we guys need all the help we can get. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow, 20% of the fiction market! That's astounding! I had no idea.

    My blogroll is too long to check, so I looked at the category in google reader where I keep my 12 favorite blogs, the ones I like to read every day.

    Six were women, four were men, one is a writing circle run by a man, and one is icanhascheezburger.com, which I think we have to count as "cats of both genders." So now I feel all egalitarian and gender-balanced! Or maybe I'm unfairly preferring a larger percentage of males than is indicated by all my google reader subscriptions.

    Then in my household, we have one woman who reads (and writes a blog!), one man who reads (and keeps suggesting we start a couples' book club), one boy who reads, and one female cat who doesn't read. At least, not when I'm watching. So I'm actually outnumbered by the literate males.

    I wonder what a survey of best-selling or prize-winning authors would show us. Men, women, balanced?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I believe the statistics, but those explanations by Brizendine are crap and sexist at that.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I also think the survey leaves out the fact that men may not read fiction, but they read other things. For instance, I rarely read the newspaper, but my husband reads it every day. He also reads magazines like Time, U.S. News, etc. that I never touch. When he reads books, they are almost always non-fiction. So, I wouldn't call him a bookworm, but he's definitely a reader.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wow, Dewey, your stats blew mine right out of the water. I'm finding more and more male book bloggers all the time, but we do still seem to represent a relatively small minority when it all book blogs are considered.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Her theories were a bit of a stretch for me at times, John.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Susan, your observations about your husband's reading habits ring true with me and most guys, I think. Just from personal observation, it does seem to me that men read newspapers more regularly than women and tend to more than hold their own when it comes to magazine reading. Books, though, are another thing, especially when it comes to fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sorry, to chime in so late, but I need to say this...My husband reads circles around me; actually, I attribute my late arrival to reading to him. It is true he doesn't blog. He has a hard time finding the print button on the his own laptop.

    Knowing that more males read newspapers than females, I often choose books to read on a more manly side. Nascar, baseball, rats, and pigeons as of late, and I read literture for the ladies. When I started out it was 90% nonfiction, then I got a complaint from one of the reading groups I attend so I started to add the lit.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Cool, Maggie. Your husband is bringing up the male average...we need more male readers like him. :-)

    ReplyDelete