Wednesday, May 24, 2006

By The Numbers (LA Times Op-Ed)

A member of my online bookclub pointed out an interesting article in the LA Times (April 30, 2006) about reading preferences in men and women.

Read on:

When Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins asked hundreds of British female academics, teachers, writers, publishers and literature students what book had changed their lives, many respondents wondered whether there would be a male version of the survey as well. Jardine and Watkins complied: The results were fascinating in their own right, and more intriguing when juxtaposed with the findings for women. Not only did men and women find different books to be meaningful, but they approached reading in divergent ways.

Men's Fiction
(Top Five)

1. "The Outsider,"

Albert Camus

2. "Catcher in the Rye,"

J.D. Salinger

3. "Slaughterhouse Five,"

Kurt Vonnegut

4. (tie)

"One Hundred Years of Solitude,"

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"The Hobbit,"

J.R.R. Tolkien

5. "Catch-22,"

Joseph Heller

Women's Fiction
(Top Five)

1. "Jane Eyre,"

Charlotte Bronte

2. "Wuthering Heights,"

Emily Bronte

3. "The Handmaid's Tale,"

Margaret Atwood

4. "Middlemarch,"

George Eliot

5. (tie)

"Pride and Prejudice,"

Jane Austen

"Beloved,"

Toni Morrison

Other findings:

No male authors made the women's top five, and no female authors made the men's top five.

Only four books made both top 20 lists.

Six male authors broke the women's top 20, but only one book by a female author made the men's top 20: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.

Older men were more likely to cite female authors as influential.

Men were most likely to have read their formative books as adolescents.

Women were more likely to read books to cope with difficult times.

Men were more likely to cite particular authors as "mentors," particularly, among these British residents, George Orwell.

Women liked shared, hand-me-down books; men liked new books and hardbacks.

Women had a more diverse list of favorites — 400 women named 200 books.

Men answered the question of what book marked a watershed moment more reluctantly than women.

Interesting,huh? The apparent gender bias stood out for me - do most women prefer books by women authors and do men prefer male writers? Reading Matters had an interesting post about this very topic...

14 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

Wow -- this IS interesting. I wonder why older men are more likely to say women writers are more influential, and why women have a more diverse list of favorites. This all is fascinating, but now I want to know the "why" behind it all.

Beloved49 said...

Well if you look at my list of books I would save, you can see I seem to lean towards men in my reading. Interesting,no? Yet I love women authors. I've read all the clasic books requried in school and loved them.A great many of them written by women.
I like books by both genders. It's the story and what they have to say that counts.

Susan Abraham said...

I REALLY, REALLY prefer the women's reads, Lotus and perhaps a couple from the men's list. Wonder if it has anything to do with my gender...*grin*

Susan Abraham said...

I forgot Lotus, that the one thing I do have in common with the men is that I too, prefer new books and hardbacks i.e. when a novel first comes out. I have seasonal periods in my life when second-hand bookshops with their warm, musty smells entice with a subtle romance and allure as powerful weapons. Then I am wonderfully trapped. But otherwise, I'd stick to the former. cheers

Guinness_Girl said...

That is REALLY interesting! Great post!

Dave said...

Lots my friend,
I must say I do like women poets. But most of the books
I read are by men. Like -- The last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield –
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield.
You might want to try reading -- The last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield.
Its about a warrior tribe of women set in ancient Greece. Its also a love story. Its kind of like Helen of Troy ----- Except in this story the war queen of the amazons falls in love with the King of Athens and goes back to Greece with him. Of course this infuriates the Amazon tribe so they go to war against Athens.

Lotus Reads said...

I'm with you, Dorothy - I want to know the why's too!

Beloved, I like books by both genders, too, and you're right, it is the content that counts. I am just fascinated with the findings of this study. Why are men so disinclined to read books by women authors? I read male authors all the time just so long as their books fall in a genre that I enjoy. I don't usually enjoy the Stephen Kings, Tom Clancys or other mystery/horror novels, even if the authors are women.

Angela in Europe said...

Wow! I wonder what type of men and women they questioned. It would be interesting to know if they took their samples from "average" (non-academic) people. It is weird to see some of those books in the top!

Lotus Reads said...

Susan, I also have a preference for new books...I like being the first one to crack the spine! ;) Even at second-hand bookshops, I'll buy a book only if it looks and smells new.

GG, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the read.


DJ, You're the lone male voice on the comments so far. I find it fascinating that you prefer male authors, but women poets! Thanks for the Steven Pressfield recommendation - I will have to look it up.

Lotus Reads said...

Angela - they surveyed British academics, teachers, professors and lit. students. I guess this is why you see that particular selection of books in the top 5. How are your teaching classes coming along? Are you having fun?

hellomelissa said...

one of the most poignant books about a female (okay, it was a hermaphrodite) in recent history was written by a MAN! it was middlesex by jeffrey eugenides. otherwise, i guess my top 10 list (which i haven't actually posted yet) has mostly female writers. i had honestly not considered it before, i've never bought a book solely for the gender of the author.

but unlike y'all who prefer new books, i like the old, loved, used ones. go figure!

Lotus Reads said...

Melissa - I've had "Middlesex" sitting on my shelf for the longest time and I still haven't broken down and read it! I told you big books intimidated me! :)

Susan in Italy said...

I think I'd be pretty split between male and female authors. Like Melissa, I'd say Middlesex is my #1 choice. Best book I've read in the last 10 years.

There's something about this, though. I've been told that readers of fiction by male or female authors are overwhelmingly women.

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