A few months ago,
I tend to challenge broad statements made about the differences between men and women. For example, film executives would have you believe that the only people going to the movies are teenage boys. When Sex and the City was such a huge success in theaters recently, I felt like it was the hundredth time that I’d witnessed the industry’s amazement at the fact that women do indeed also like to go to the movies! So am I really to believe these reports about women having more interest in reading than men? I decided to do a little detective work and get to the bottom of the book buying habits of men and women.
I started by looking up what sorts of books women and men are more likely to buy. According to a recent Harris poll, women are more likely to read mysteries (57% versus 38%), religious books (32% versus 24%), and romance novels (38% versus 3%). Men are more likely to read history (44% versus 27%), science fiction (34% versus 18%) and political books (22% versus 9%). None of these statistics are especially startling, but what I did find a little surprising is that overall many more women read general fiction than men. In 2007, an NPR story commented on studies showing that men actually account for only 20% of the fiction market.
A quick glance at a recent NY Times fiction bestseller list seems to support this statistic. Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Jane Green, Emily Giffin, Danielle Steel, and Lauren Weisberger are just representative of the primarily female authors on the list, and most of their books have female protagonists. The non-fiction bestseller list, however, appears to be more gender neutral, at least in terms of content.
I decided to conduct my own poll and sent out an e-mail to some friends inquiring about their reading habits. Many women wrote back that they felt they read the same amount of non-fiction as the men in their lives, but confirmed that they did read more fiction, while they thought men tended to gravitate towards history, biography and general non-fiction books. Interestingly, a few men replied that while they didn’t read much fiction, they felt they put in more hours each day reading online news sites, magazines, and newspapers.
Perhaps the most interesting statistic of all is that of the friends I e-mailed, many more women than men responded with answers. So after all of my research, I guess the only thing I can state with certainty is that among my circle of friends, men and women both read an impressive amount of books, but only my female friends read my e-mails!
So what do you think about all of this? Do women really read more than men?