Thursday, May 28, 2009

Loving Fiction Might Just Be All In Your Head

I was perusing some articles I had happened upon, who knows where, who knows when, and one grabbed my attention. It was an old article from entitled "Why Women Read More Than Men". It certainly does seem that way, doesn't it? I have never done a poll or anything but the ratio of female to male book bloggers seems very much to lean toward the distaff side. But happily, according to the article, someone else has done the poll...and the results were interesting. And a bit disturbing as a book lover.
  • Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market.
  • Book groups consist almost entirely of women.
  • Literary blogs are also populated mainly by women.
  • The typical American read only four books last year, and one in four adults read no books at all.
  • Among avid readers, the typical woman read nine books in a year, compared with only five for men.
That 80% of all fiction is read by women is interesting..and agrees with what I so often read in many bloggers comments. The blogger, a woman, is reading 100+ books a year and her 'significant other' rarely reads any books, especially fiction. Not to mention that these 100+ readers are in a category far beyond 'avid' it would seem. But why this huge gap between the reading habits of men and 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."
Then there is some little things called “mirror neurons”. It seems these little things, located behind our eyebrows, are activated when we watch other people and explains things like why we salivate when we see other people eat. Scientists believe these mirror neurons are the biological basis for empathy and that, quite possibly, women have more sensitive ones than men.
“That might explain why women are drawn to works of fiction, which by definition require the reader to empathize with characters.
"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."
Interesting...but I just can't get past those numbers...the typical American reads only four books a year, one in four reads no books at all!

And that is not the worse of it...
"...another, more worrisome gap might also be closing: the age gap. Young people, in general, read less than older people, and that does not bode well for books and the people who love them.

"What all of us are wondering is what will happen with this new generation that doesn't read much," says bookstore owner Carla Cohen. "What happens when they grow up?"
See, this is why I am happy to have so many unread books on hand. If the entire book industry collapses, I will be ok, for quite a long, long time, while all around me, the young people will be fooling around with their various electronic devices. Kitty (my imaginary kitty) and I will be sitting in the shadow of our bookcases.


  1. Wow! Those are some amazing numbers. I am horrified that one in four doesn't even read. I guess that explains some things...I won't comment beyond that! My husband reads maybe two books a year, but is voracious when it comes to his magazines and newspapers. As someone who is beyond the "avid" mark, I have made it my mission in life to pass along the passion of reading to my kids, which I am fairly certain other readers are doing too. The future is on our shoulders!

  2. I don't know - men certainly read far more than women years ago. I think it's become "uncool" for men to read. It's also possible that our education system increasingly deters them from reading. My fiance likes to read and I'm so happy about that. He doesn't really like the same kind of books I do - he likes to either read thinky books or science fiction - but he definitely reads.

    The age gap is just sad. I'm one of the younger book bloggers and I wish I could encourage more of my friends to read.

  3. I agree with Sandy - it isn't that men aren't reading - they read other things. I often find that men read non-fiction, while women need fiction. My husband probably reads about 10 books a year, but he will read more newpapers than me.

    I'm trying to reverse some of those shocking statistics, but I can't do much by myself. I hope we can encourage more younger people to read. It is so important.

  4. My husband's not a big reader, but what he does read is probably half fiction, half non-fiction.

    I agree with encouraging young people to read. It's important.

  5. just dropping in on my trip to see if any of you are still

  6. As for book blogs, it really depends. Many of the more literary, in-depth book blogs or sites are written by men. The only slightly more common variant, though, is the female book-reviewing blog. For the most part, I think it's split 60-40, a much less striking divide. There's a lot to be said about gender reading but I don't think that's one of the points to be made.

  7. Wow, I should join a bookclub!


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