Fiction, nonfiction, and gender

Hi, kids!

I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, a cool-ass group for writers of crime fiction and mysteries. They send out some really groovy book- and publishing-related links to members, and I always find stuff to think about. Like this link from National Public Radio, for example, about what seems to be a fact that women read far more fiction than men. And sadly, Americans are reading far less than in the past, too. Anyway:

Surveys consistently find that women read more books than men, especially fiction. Explanations abound, from the biological differences between the male and female brains, to the way that boys and girls are introduced to reading at a young age.

One thing is certain: 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.


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.

There are numerous theories as to why that is, ranging from an “empathy” gap — women tend to be more empathetic and have a wider emotional range than men, traits that might make fiction more appealing to women — to the possibility that women have more sensitive “mirror neurons” than men. Reading fiction requires lots of patience, and the ability to “feel” the characters (to put yourself into the story), and that seems to be a purview of women rather than men.

There are exceptions, however. More boys than girls have read the Harry Potter series, for example. But another worrisome trend, the article notes, is that younger people are reading less than older. Which does raise questions about what will happen to reading, to the ability to focus for long periods of time on a book, and to books in general.

I’m of the opinion that if parents get kids started early enough on reading, whatever gender/sex/identity, it’ll be a life-long habit. So perhaps parents need to encourage the habit more, regardless of medium, and make sure their kids are expanding their horizons and stimulating their imaginations through books.

And yes, I am totally biased about this topic. Books rock! 😀

Happy Tuesday!