Tuesday, September 25, 2007

But Mom, reading is for girls!

Well, according to NPR, books are for girls, anyway. "Surveys consistently find that women read more books than men, especially fiction," asserts Eric Weiner, the article's author. Which surveys have uncovered this truth, exactly, he does not say - but he does go on to give us this disturbing statistic:
Americans—of either gender—are reading fewer books today than in the past. A poll released last month by The Associated Press and Ipsos, a market-research firm, found that the typical American read only four books last year, and one in four adults read no books at all... 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.
Although the above quotation asserts that women are out-reading men in almost all categories and certainly reading more in terms of sheer volume, the rest of the article focuses on speculations that perhaps we sensitive women enjoy fiction more than men do because we are more empathetic than men. I find the research of Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain and the scientist cited to support this empathy and fiction are for girls theory, to be a little suspect, however, as she restates the debunked myth that adult women talk more than men do.

However, I am left wondering - are we Americans really reading so little? Do men really read much less than we do? What books have you all been reading recently? Are there any recommendations for those of us who are in danger of not meeting the yearly average for an avid female reader?


Mächtige Maus said...

Personally, I go through reading phases. I just went through one, actually, but have now moved on to my mass chaos and murder video game phase. I like to be well rounded.

One of the last books I read was The Alienist by Caleb Carr and thought it was excellent. Murder/psychological thriller based around the emergence of forensic science and profiling.

Casmall said...

Just finished Freakonomics, it was good in parts, but has a lot of BS in it as well.

La Pobre Habladora said...

I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes when I discovered it while we were unpacking after the move to GA last February. I also discovered Sarah Vowell as an author this year - I loved The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Another book that I'd recommend is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

In tallying how many volumes I've read this year, I've come up with a question - does listening to an unabridged book on tape count? We've taken a lot of road trips... Just to be clear, I don't need them to fulfill my avid reader quota - but I'm competitive.

Right now I'm in the middle of two books - The Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

Anonymous said...

In my very limited and informal poll, I find that women and girls are reading more than men - especially fiction. The men I know tend to read non-fiction and technology. However, they do listen to fiction via audio books. The men also watch more television, or at least surf more television, than women. Is that a gender thing also?

La Pobre Habladora said...

Well, I don't believe our current genera preferences point to an inherent difference in the sexes, but it might show something interesting about how we are currently perceive gender differences, or about how those differences are being marketed. Oprah, for example, has really promoted the idea that people should be reading quality literature, and her viewers are mainly female.

This is pure speculation, but perhaps women are reading more while men are spending time on video games or television because we currently see intellectualism as a mark of feminine success, where the image of the man-boy is currently fashionable (Alternet has an article on this trend).
This could explain the difference in time spent watching T.V., since television is not considered to be a vehicle for high culture while reading literature is. As for the books on tape, they appeal to anyone with a commute and are best with fiction since no graphs or charts are usually required in story-telling.

Here is one more difference in the ways we are spending our time - women are spending more time on the internet these days and have recently surpassed men in hours spent on-line (The Guardian). Unlike reading or TV times, you might be able to get information other than the self-reporting that polls produce about how much time women and men spend on-line and what they are doing during those hours.