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A Man Who Reads Fiction

This post was inspired by @JEdwardPaul, who posted a link to a spoken word piece by Mark Grist called ‘Girls Who Read’.

My man and his reading habits

The last time my husband read a book we were on honeymoon. That was five years ago. In the intervening years the most I’ve seen him read is news on his phone, bedtime stories to the kids and – because he’s wonderfully supportive – my writing. He says it is not because he doesn’t like to read, it’s just that when time is short, reading isn’t top of his list when it comes to relaxation. To be fair, it could be my fault. I never seem to hit the right note when, on the odd occasion, he asks me to recommend him something. He was completely weirded out when I suggested Will Self’s Great Apes.

By Barbara Krawcowicz
By Barbara Krawcowicz

Gender divides in reading 

Reading differences between the genders emerge during early childhood and, whether due to conditioning or biology, these differences continue into adulthood.  I do remember reading that the books that have a film franchise tend to do really well with boys, and that more boys have read the Harry Potter series than girls. In general though, women out-read men in every category apart from history and biography. According to research conducted in the US, Canada and Britain, men account for only 20 per cent of the fiction market.

Ian McEwan’s experiment

In 2005, Ian McEwan wrote in The Guardian about handing out free novels in a London park. He and his son gave away thirty novels; it was a tiny but telling sampling.  McEwan later wrote that the women they encountered were ‘eager and grateful to take a book.’ The men ‘frowned in suspicion, or distaste. When they were assured they would not have to part with their money, they still could not be persuaded.’  At the end of his piece, McEwan concluded that ‘reading groups, readings, breakdowns of book sales all tell the same story: when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.’

A man who reads fiction

The reasons I’d like my husband to read are selfish ones. Sinking into the sofa with a good book is wonderful, but can feel anti-social. Guilt wouldn’t be an issue if we were both curled up with a book. I like roses and chocolates as much as other women, but if my husband were to read to me I’d melt on the spot. It would be great to be able to discuss plots and characters together and for him to understand first-hand why I am suddenly feeling so sad, or why I have laughed out loud. Instead of dinner, a movie or the theatre, we could go to the local bookshop together, lose ourselves amongst the shelving and pop back to each other to swap recommendations.

Does your family read fiction? What books have you read that might appeal to men who aren’t regular readers?

13 thoughts on “A Man Who Reads Fiction

  1. My boyfriend and I are both readers and do enjoy nothing more than curling up on the sofa (opposite ends) with our books or Kindles. He’s surprisingly open minded when it comes to suggestions, I guess that comes with having been in a book group for several years. It’s great, we discuss what we are reading and whether or not we think the other would like it. We also read books at the same time as each other – Anna Karenina and Game of Thrones being our latest ones. It’s funny, one will sneak ahead of the other so sometimes we can’t talk about what just happened exactly, but we can at the end. And it is great to do that – not just for the sharing feeling but to get the different interpretations of plots and characters.
    Our to read book piles are large and we do talk about books and what to read next a lot. We also watch movies, go out with friends and do other stuff too – but reading is our own delicious selfish habit that we can share at times. He does scoff at the amount of chick lit I read though! Candy floss for the brain I say :)

    1. That sounds deliciously romantic! I would have loved to read the Games of Thrones series with someone. George R R Martin’s world-building is so brilliant that it is hard to explain to someone who is unfamiliar. My husband and I will get there one day…as soon as I start playing computer games with him he says! He is very intuitive about my fiction though so very lucky there. Thanks for reading and commenting, n

      1. It’s really not that romantic, I guess we are just book people. And he’s also trying to get me into playing games, only when he knits I say :)
        Game of Thrones – I love it, we are two books from the end, but it’s exhausting at times, emotionally and literally. At least the first HBO series was relatively true to the book so you could get your husband interested in that way?

  2. Funnily enough, I’ve never dated a man who didn’t like to read. Not all of them have been avid, and every one has different habits, but I seem to be incapable of being romantically attracted to someone who isn’t intellectually attracted to books.

  3. I grew up in a family if readers, . My parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins are mostly all educated in the Liberal Arts and reading fiction is the norm. I read mostly literary fiction wiith a mystery or suspense thrown in every once in awhile. My wife is the non-fiction reader in our house and she tends to gravitate to books that provoke intellectual thought and ideas as opposed to History and factual information.

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