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KEV67

Men not reading much, especially not fiction

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Read an article I. the Telegraph lamenting that men did not read many books, and what books we read tended to be non-fiction. Is this a problem? What are we to make of this? 

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I am male and have always been an avid reader, since I first discovered from my Mother, that those curious symbols on the breakfast cereal packet, actually meant something! I read anything that appeals to me, be it factual, fiction, biography/autobiography whatever. I have a large collection of 'real' books which was much larger at one time, but I had to do a cull for reasons of space in my small home! The past few years I have read my various ereaders, and always have a book 'on the go'. But in fairness, the majority of my male friends are not readers. They will happily read a two or three column(s) per page magazine, but cringe at the thought of a book! And one friend (bless!) who loves nothing more than films, claims he would never read fiction because 'it's all made up'. Like films, aren't, of course?

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I think it's always been the case, that males don't read as much as females.  

 

And one friend (bless!) who loves nothing more than films, claims he would never read fiction because 'it's all made up'. Like films, aren't, of course? - not much you can say to that is there!

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My father and my brother read and always have. My brother is an avid reader and my father slightly less so but always has a book 'on the go'. One of my friend's husband read and that's about all I know about.

 

I wonder why men in general don't read? Did the article say?

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Noël Gallagher said he only read factual books, fiction being a waste of time. Philip Roth said there was not a readership capable of concentrating enough to read one of his books. The reporter thinks there are too many other distractions: Netflix, computer games, Spotify, online pornography. Readership has been in decline for decades, but more so among men. Men are twice as likely as women not to read at all. Women read 80% of fiction. Men read more fiction than women only in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Apparently men think reading fiction is a waste of time. Men are reluctant to read books by women. Publishing has become dominated by women. Male authors are turning to screenwriting because it is better paid and it is more difficult to get a book published. Some neuroscientists think women's brains are hardwired for empathy while male brains are hardwired for systems. Girls learn to read quicker than boys, and boys can get put off.

 

The article was by Ed Cumming but it is behind a paywall.

Edited by KEV67

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When I was a schoolboy in the 70s there did seem a real movement in schools to discourage boys from reading Biggles. I don't know why. I only read one or two Biggles books, well maybe three of four, but it was quite difficult to find them in the school library. My class in middle school were quite avid readers. We tended to like the Willard Price adventure books (Tiger Adventure, Jungle Adventure, etc). I also liked Enid Blyton's Famous Five series, but my favourite books were The Hobbit and Watership Down, which were both band of brothers quests. My secondary school was in a rougher area, and most kids did not read for pleasure. I could not see the point of English literature myself. I was hostile to poetry, which was about daffodils and suchlike. Shakespeare was like a foreign language, whom I suspected hardly anyone truly understood or liked. Then for our O level we had to study Jane Eyre, which is not just romantic fiction, but Victorian romantic fiction, so double girly. At that age most boys are praying they're not gay, so they definitely won't be into reading books like that.

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8 hours ago, KEV67 said:

Noël Gallagher said he only read factual books, fiction being a waste of time. Philip Roth said there was not a readership capable of concentrating enough to read one of his books. The reporter thinks there are too many other distractions: Netflix, computer games, Spotify, online pornography. Readership has been in decline for decades, but more so among men. Men are twice as likely as women not to read at all. Women read 80% of fiction. Men read more fiction than women only in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Apparently men think reading fiction is a waste of time. Men are reluctant to read books by women. Publishing has become dominated by women. Male authors are turning to screenwriting because it is better paid and it is more difficult to get a book published. Some neuroscientists think women's brains are hardwired for empathy while male brains are hardwired for systems. Girls learn to read quicker than boys, and boys can get put off.

 

The article was by Ed Cumming but it is behind a paywall.


 

8 hours ago, KEV67 said:

When I was a schoolboy in the 70s there did seem a real movement in schools to discourage boys from reading Biggles. I don't know why. I only read one or two Biggles books, well maybe three of four, but it was quite difficult to find them in the school library. My class in middle school were quite avid readers. We tended to like the Willard Price adventure books (Tiger Adventure, Jungle Adventure, etc). I also liked Enid Blyton's Famous Five series, but my favourite books were The Hobbit and Watership Down, which were both band of brothers quests. My secondary school was in a rougher area, and most kids did not read for pleasure. I could not see the point of English literature myself. I was hostile to poetry, which was about daffodils and suchlike. Shakespeare was like a foreign language, whom I suspected hardly anyone truly understood or liked. Then for our O level we had to study Jane Eyre, which is not just romantic fiction, but Victorian romantic fiction, so double girly. At that age most boys are praying they're not gay, so they definitely won't be into reading books like that.


 

Wow. I've been reading articles online that more paper books than ever were being sold as a result of lockdown. Also the odd articles about important men like Bill Gates reading on a regular basis. That said I did read that Bill Gates only read factual books. 

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7 hours ago, lunababymoonchild said:

Wow. I've been reading articles online that more paper books than ever were being sold as a result of lockdown. Also the odd articles about important men like Bill Gates reading on a regular basis. That said I did read that Bill Gates only read factual books. 

I believe that Bill Gates primarily reads non-fiction but also enjoys fiction. Two books that Gates has stated are in his favorites are:

Where The Crawdads Sing .......and 

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

 

In the U.S. it appears that the percentage of men vs women that read books are pretty equal, 75% women and 73% men. 

https://www.statista.com/statistics/249781/book-reading-population-in-the-us-by-gender/

 

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I remember reading something ages ago which pointed out that the argument 'men don't read' arises periodically. The author was suggesting that the very act of publishing that statement over and over again actually puts boys off reading because they end up feeling as though they aren't supposed to enjoy it. Saying that, when I'm tutoring I always ask the students whether they like to read and I have an equal amount of male and female students who do (preferred genre for boys seems to be detective fiction!).

 

I also always wonder with this kind of newspaper research - who did they actually ask? 

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I used to be one of those men who didn’t read fiction. It wasn’t because I thought it was a waste of time as such but more because I was reading for a specific purpose, to learn something. At the time I never really considered reading just to read as a pleasurable pursuit. Thinking about it now, that is really daft because I really enjoyed reading non-fiction and did so because I enjoyed it, not because I felt like I had to.

 

What changed things for me was finding the right kind of fiction for me. 

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I was put off in school. A combination of being forced to read 'Carrie's War' which wasn't remotely suitable (school was obsessed with stories about the evacuees for some reason) and not realising that there were other, different kinds of books out there that might be more likely to grab me.

 

Used to read the Beano and Dandy every week though. 😊 Good times.

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7 hours ago, Brian. said:

 

What changed things for me was finding the right kind of fiction for me. 

Which was?

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16 hours ago, KEV67 said:

Which was?

 

It started with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, moved through the Wallander books by Henning Mankell, and these days I'll give anything a go. If you told me 10 years ago that I would read Pride & Prejudice for fun and end up loving it I would have thought you'd lost the plot.

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There are so many factors contributing to why males read less than females (it's as true of boys and girls as it is of men and women), some of which are touched on above.  Another one that I found bore out when teaching (I was a primary teacher until retiring 3-4 years ago):  the complete lack of male role models, not least at that critical age of reading development in primary schools.  Once a child has learned to read, reading itself has a very low priority in the school curriculum, and where it does feature, it's utterly, utterly tedious.  Schools seem to work hard at knocking the joy out of reading at a very early stage, and it carries on into secondary (where it's almost worse).  By the time most children got to me in Year 5, I felt as if I was having to do a whole load of catch-up work, with parents as well as students.  Reading schemes were a complete no-no in my class, and reading diaries (a real bugbear) were massively streamlined! Instead we did a lot of reading for pure pleasure.  Being seen as, and making a bit of a joke of being a complete 'reading geek' helped!  It was rare not to find something children enjoyed reading by the end of the year, including fiction books for the boys (although I had to regularly tell parents that it was perfectly fine for their son to be reading non-fiction!).

 

Incidentally, over the past decade my reading has consisted of 64% fiction vs 36% non-fiction, although this year it's been 46% fiction vs 54% non-fiction.  Over the same decade, the author gender split has been 59% male vs 41% female, with one year (2016) where I actually read more female than male, also the year I read proportionately the most fiction; this year it's been fairly similar to the overall figures: 57% male vs 43% female.

 

A couple of other points: I don't think the speed of learning to read is relevant to enjoying reading, but that's purely on anecdotal experience not on anything scientific. What can cause damage is trying to read too early - we push reading and writing formal learning far too early in this country and it can do (and does) serious damage.  If boys in general do learn later, then that could be a contributing factor.  Anecdotally: I learned to read before starting school, whilst my brother (2 years younger) didn't learn to read until at least 8 or so.  In those days my worried parents were told by the school not to worry, he'd catch up when he was ready. I can guarantee that wouldn't happen today.  We are equally avid readers now, with not dissimilar reading profiles (although he conforms to male stereotype by reading a lot of fantasy, whereas I read hardly any).

 

Edited by willoyd

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