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.
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?