Only women readOk, I stole the title pun from Alice Cooper. Blame my attention seeking tendency. But now I have your interest, no I don’t mean that all men are illiterate and have never opened a book in their collective lives. It’s just that I can’t help but noticing that on all of the book related social sites I frequent, and literature related discussion boards, there seems to be a disproportionate percentage of women. Even book shop staff and librarians seem to be the domains of women.

This thought was triggered by a photo I was sent recently of a book club meeting attended by one of my writerly friends. Not a man or boy in sight. I did wonder if I’d been sent the wrong photo by mistake. Perhaps confused with a Tupperware party or Hen’s Night. But no. It was the book club.

After contemplating the photo, I did a quick check of my work related emails, Tweets, Facebook messages, subscribers and my registered book reviewer and book blogger lists. Phew. Yes I found some men, but by crickey, only a very few.

My last port of call during my investigation was Goodreads, which is probably the most popular book website on the internet and checked my friend listing. Oh dear me. Point proven.

Well, maybe not. I know I have friends who are definitely male and who also definitely read books. Probably in about the same proportion to the number of women I know personally who read.

So is this more a question about communication? An afternoon cuppa and a chat now takes place on social media instead of at the kitchen table?

Books By Derek Haines
Derek’s Vandal Blog
Derek on Twitter

Only Women Read
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20 thoughts on “Only Women Read

  • 18/05/2011 at 6:28 pm

    Thank god you and I are writing them then eh Derek? :)

  • 18/05/2011 at 8:16 pm

    I go to a women only book group (and sometimes I even read the book!) and we invited some men but they all declined, the general excuse being that if they had time to sit around talking about a book they'd rather use that time in a pub, drinking. They could have just een scared of course.
    Maybe women are just more likely to analyse something and read something into it, like we do in everyday life!
    Or, all of these women you see on the internet are really men, a bit of a reversal of how it used to be when women wrote books under a male name?

  • 18/05/2011 at 8:36 pm

    Well Tracy, are men so silly that they would pass up an invite to a ladies only book evening? Dear me. Invite me! I've read Harry Potter :)

  • 18/05/2011 at 8:51 pm

    Dear Derek,
    You are cordially invited to a ladies only book group. We drink wine, eat nibbles and sometimes we even take the books out of our handbags. We tell dirty jokes and marvel at the way that men are fooled by the whole 'book group' myth. Every so often one of us will look at the chosen book on amazon and read the reviews in case we are questioned under pressure, although this is yet to happen.
    You will be sent a piece of paper with the time and location on which you will memorise and then destroy.
    See you next month!
    Ms Tidswell

  • 18/05/2011 at 8:52 pm

    Maybe it's more a question of, women tend to be social readers, and men solitary readers?

    I know a lot of guys that read, but few who go the extra step of reviewing/analysing/being part of book clubs. Perhaps it's a gender thing (women being more likely to want to communicate) or a social thing (talking books being seen as unmanly?).

    Ah, the mysteries of life!

  • 18/05/2011 at 9:04 pm

    Love your comment Tracy. I've never been to a book group because they always seem to read high brow (boring) stuff. Never any Jackie Collins or James Patterson (his old stuff of course). I never thought about it being a cover. I thought thats what Bunco was.

  • 18/05/2011 at 9:05 pm

    My husband says (when he never has any information about his family after a visit with them) men bond by doing, which means hiking all day and not speaking a word.

  • 18/05/2011 at 9:07 pm

    Oh Tracy, I wholeheartedly accept your invitation!! Now, how many women did you say? lol

  • 18/05/2011 at 10:08 pm

    7 women. One for every Harry Potter book!

  • 18/05/2011 at 10:10 pm

    Right Tracy! Packing all my HP ebooks immediately! lol

  • 18/05/2011 at 10:13 pm

    LOL @ the comments.

    I agree that it seems more women than men are reading. On the other hand, women are more communicative than men on stuff they do.

    Authors, however, seem to be in equal analogy men and women.

    Thank you for the interesting post :)

  • 18/05/2011 at 10:31 pm

    My hubs is a reader of books, one of the things I like about him.

    If there were a group of guys that wanted to get together and discuss what they've been reading, I'm sure he would join in.

    Unfortunately, the best he can find are guys that want to discuss Portal 2 and what happened on Doctor Who (not that there is anything wrong with that :) ) And even those guys aren't flocking in the largest of groups. I think guys are less likely to be "sharers".

    I think it does come down to more women finding reading as a social exercise and men a solitary one.

    Sweeping generalization, of course, with many exceptions to the rule floating about. :)

  • 19/05/2011 at 2:21 pm

    As well as working in an indy book shop I've run several book groups and I think over the years I've had two or three men in total attending them. So it's no surprise that the online book discussions are also a female domain. It's a known fact that women read more fiction than men.

    Yet, it's much more difficult to get into print as a woman writer, literary prizes go more often to men, many female writers now have their novels go straight to trade back with no hard back published….explain & discuss!


  • 19/05/2011 at 2:24 pm

    PS. I love you title picture! I have the same Edward Hopper painting as wallpaper on my phone.

  • 19/05/2011 at 3:18 pm

    Seems likely that it's mainly that women like to share the reading experience, but there's probably something else at work as well.

  • 19/05/2011 at 3:38 pm

    Does everyone here REALLY believe my friend Mr. Haines has not ALWAYS known his statistical readership ratio of males to females? Hmmmm…?

  • 20/05/2011 at 1:34 am

    Yet the best-seller lists are full of men. Think about that. But yes, there are many professions that seem to be gender-specific, but that's human, or man and woman, nature. We talk, communicate, fuss, and tell stories in the caves, while you hunt the prey, roam the lands, and pull us by the hair. Is that why lesbians cut their hair short? So you wouldn't do the same to them? Ok, granted I got carried away… a lot. I needed that, thanks. :)

  • 20/05/2011 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you all so much for your participation in this post, and I happily and gladly accept all 2,500 invitations to your ladies only book club meetings! :) I am now $eeking funding from the IMF to make a world tour!

  • 29/05/2011 at 12:45 pm

    I'm going to try to ignore the blatant sexism in this post and its comments… It's unbelievably difficult, let me tell you.

    The problem with examining one's own circles is that they aren't necessarily representative of the whole. Just look at the demographics for Goodreads. Yes, there's about a ten-percent difference between the sexes, but that's typical for most sites (and just proves that you happen to have an above average number of female friends). Gender parity is rare online; usually only very general usage sites like Google and YouTube consistently achieve it. If there's any real disparity in book reading that we should be looking at, it's probably a racial one, if any of the statistics I've come across in the past are to be believed.

    But most of that is just online, where I think the data is more reliable. "In real life," I think you'd probably find the participation of men in reading groups varies greatly by region for any number of reasons. It'd be difficult to objectively study, I imagine.

    There may be something bigger at play here, however. If there's anything that ties together a majority of adult readers, it's probably that many have at least pursued a higher education. If that's the case, then we might very well see a sharp decline in male readership, because most statistics show that fewer men (than women) are attending university, and even fewer are graduating. If there is true disparity between the sexes when it comes to readership–not just socializing over it–it may be indicative of a much larger problem.

  • 29/05/2011 at 1:29 pm

    Great points iamfantastikate. I think your point about higher education is extremely relevant and it is bringing greater opportunity for women in Western societies. Still some way to go elsewhere though.

    But I must say that whenever gender issues are discussed, it is easy to be labeled as sexist.

    I think my light tongue in cheek post was more about communication than reading and as such highlights a difference in the way men and women use social interaction.

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