I recently came across the contention that men read fewer books a year than women. The statistics vary but the most current I could find indicated that on average, women read 14 books a year and men 9.
Clearly, I’m an anomaly, having read over 100 books a year each year of the current decade–but then I’ve always known I’m a bit of an anomaly! I read more than my wife, so our household is an exception to the norm.
Since I am an anomaly and not a good judge of these things, I thought I would go to that fount of all wisdom, Facebook, and ask my friends about this. Their responses seem in line with what has been written about this.
One friend wrote:
“While I can’t speak for all guys, I can remember growing up and it being seen by many as “nerdy” to read, and thus something to not do. This view was mostly held/expressed in elementary school, but I think that if someone absorbs this viewpoint at a young age, then it will likely be hard to change later in life.”
“Could it be because it’s hard to read a book while you’re throwing or catching or hitting a ball?”
I resonate with this. Probably one of the reasons I read is that I wasn’t athletic in elementary school, usually the last to be chosen for teams. Since I already was teased for my lack of athleticism, I thought, why not read? But I can see how it would be harder for others who actually had athletic skills!
Another person responded,
“Women tend to have more verbal/language skills than males typically, it may be an off shoot of that trend”
This may relate to some other comments:
“I just asked my husband, and his immediate response was “shorter attention span.” I think technology is to blame. He spends more time staring at screens, and he jumps around on them so much that it’s become a habit.”
“True for my wife and I. She reads many more books, I read a lot more news/blogs. Short attention span?”
“I’m post literate. Seriously though, I just enjoy listening to books more than reading them these days.”
Some have proposed that there may be biological differences between men’s and women’s brains but these comments also raise the question of technology. Do men and women interact differently with technology? Does listening to books count as “reading” and do these make it into these statistics? Or do men and women read different kinds of things? Statistically, the answer is “yes” with women reading far more fiction than men while men prefer non-fiction. This is particularly true in the category of romance fiction where women outnumber men 84 to 16 percent. Two of my respondents said,
“Not positive but I suspect men read more newspapers. Women I know read fiction while men do not.”
“I go to used bookstores, and I’m always amazed by the number of romance books they have. They really outnumber most other genres.”
This makes me wonder if some of the difference is the kinds of books read. We will tend to read fewer books that take time to read (densely written academic books for example, or history books with longer page counts that tend to have a male audience) than page turners, steamy or otherwise. One person (a woman) noted:
“I read a lot less than the average person but largely academic books. The same is with my husband. Maybe that’s why we read a lot less. Some of the “average” women I do know also read mostly smut books…. which I refuse to partake.”
“I’d be interested in a more complex breakdown of these numbers. I know some folk who put up huge Goodreads books numbers, but all they read are 200-pg pop fiction. With mass numbers and the common person, what kinds of books are the average women reading, etc?
“That information would tell us if we’re talking about “the average reader” (male and female) or “serious readers” or “academic readers”; my suspicion is that the gender differences will vary significantly between those three (or more) groups.”
I was thankful to find a few men who are as anomalous as I am. One wrote:
“I buy and read two or three times as many books as my wife, and she reads a lot.”
“We already know everything! 😂. Seriously, I read a LOT of books, so I don’t know why others don’t.” (Emoticons in actual comment.)
My very anecdotal and unscientific survey does suggest to me that there is much more to look at than the raw statistic of average books read for men and women. The questions of what kind of reading each do, including media other than books, what kind of books they read, and even what kind of readers we are all factor into this discussion. One article I looked at noted these types of readers:
- Page Turners: avid readers (48% of women, 26 % of men)
- Slow Worms: slow, serious readers who finish their books (18 % of women, 32 % of men).
- Serial Shelvers: those who have shelves of books they haven’t (and probably won’t) read (17 % of women, 20 % of men)
- Double Bookers: have at least two books going at a time (12 % of both women and men).
I found that a bit puzzling because I fall into three of the four above categories. What all this suggests though is that there is far more to be understood about our reading habits that these blunt-edged statistics don’t capture.
What are your thoughts about the differences between men and women when it comes to reading?