“Reading groups, readings, breakdowns of book sales all tell the same story: when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”

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So says writer Ian McEwan in this Guardian article. The NPR website currently hosts an op-ed by Eric Wiener entitled “Why Women Read More Than Men” which reports:

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.

That data is apparently based on a survey, the results of which are for sale here. An AP account of the survey is accessible here. Weiner also asserts:

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.

Additionally, Weiner cites Lakshmi Chaudhry’s August 2006 In These Times piece, “Why Hemingway is Chick-Lit” in which Chaudhry says:

… Unlike the gods of the literary establishment who remain predominantly male:both as writers and critics:their humble readers are overwhelmingly female ….

… [P]ublishing industry research shows that if”chick-lit”were defined as what women read, the term would have to include most novels, including those considered macho territory. A 2000 survey found that women comprised a greater percentage of readers than men across all genres: Espionage/thriller (69 percent); General (88 percent); Mystery/Detective (86 percent); and even Science Fiction (52 percent). …

Both Chaudhry and Weiner consider “evo psych” explanations for the fiction reading gender gap, which is something Mark Liberman evaluates in a related post at The Language Log.

–Ann Bartow

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