Novels for men: Do guys still read books?

                                                         

                            (photo credit: allposters.com)                                            (photo credit: blogs.uvu.edu)    

As I have mentioned before, I am a guy who likes to read and write books. Only it seems that outside of the sci-fi.fantasy realm the majority of books published are books women prefer, such as paranormal romance and YA thrillers with female heroines and female-centric plots.

First, let me state that I’m not objecting to the so-called “chick-lit”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with paranormal romance or dystopian societies if you are into those things. Just because one person doesn’t like a book doesn’t mean others won’t, a practice which seems to be forgotten in the publishing industry,

From last year’s National Endowment for the Arts survey:

The NEA has partnered with the United States Census Bureau six times since 1982 to conduct the SPPA. The 2012 survey asked a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 and older if they had participated in five broad categories of arts activity in the past year: attending, reading, learning, making/sharing art, and consuming art via electronic media.

  • More than two-thirds of American adults (71 percent or 167 million) accessed art via electronic media, including TV, radio, hand-held or mobile devices, the Internet, and DVDs, CDs, tapes, or records.
  • Music viewing and/or listening is the most popular form of media arts participation—whether on TV, radio, or the Internet. Fifty percent of adults used TV or radio to watch or listen to music, and 29 percent used the Internet to watch, listen to, or download music.

 Reading Books and Literature

  • More than half of American adults read a work of literature or a book (fiction or nonfiction) not required for work or school. However, adults’ rates of literary reading (novels or short stories, poetry, and plays) dropped back to 2002 levels (from 50 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2012).
  • Older Americans (65 and older) now have higher rates of literary reading than any other adult age group. 

 

And then there’s this little nugget of info:

Women tend to simply read more than men — one study by the Associated Press found that among avid readers, women read nine books a year while men read five. The men outpaced the women in reading biographies and historical books, though, and booksellers say that women make up the clear majority of fiction readers.

According to one theory, women read more fiction than men because they possess greater quantities of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are activated when we do something, as well as when we watch somebody else do the same thing. In other words, mirror neurons help us put ourselves in another person’s shoes, and they are tied closely to empathy. It’s possible that women are better able to empathize with fictional characters because of their mirror neurons, which makes them more likely to invest in characters’ journeys.

Both the Associated Press poll and a 2007 poll from the National Endowment for the Arts have tracked declines in reading for pleasure among Americans. The NEA poll showed that literary reading has declined for both genders, across all education levels and in nearly every age group. It also said that only 47 percent of adults had read a novel, short story, play or poem in the past year . The report showed that the gap between reading scores for male and female 12th-grade students had widened from 1992 to 2005. Girls outperformed boys on literary reading, reading for information and reading to perform a task. Women also outscored men on adult literacy tests.

(source: “Why do women read more fiction than men?” Curiosity.discover.com)

I can’t give the scientific answer about empathy and mirror neurons, but it is well-known that women are generally more emotion than men. It’s why your girlfriend/wife/mother/sister/ BFF can cry to a romantic movie but you the guy are probably bored or indifferent. You may also have noticed just how many romance novels there are.

The sad truth is that reading for pleasure overall is down, as the NEA study noted. Though older people like my grandma still read for pleasure for most people it’s just easier to play Angry Birds or Candy Crush (or whatever the newest game is) than it is to pick up a book and spend even one hour reading it.

Also, children who are not read to by their parents or guardians are generally less likely to pick up good reading habits than children whose parents or guardians read to them on a reasonably regular basis. There is a study by the Annie E Casey Foundation that children who enter the fourth grade unable to read are almost 90% of those students who end up dropping out of high school and/or ending up incarcerated.

However, let’s not totally blame the people. Perhaps some people aren’t interested in what gets put out. Most men I know are not interested in reading romance, including paranormal romance. Some men will buy dystopian thrillers but it becomes harder and harder to stand out in the crowded dystopian market (Hugh Howey’s Wool actually did on its own-but it’s the exception to the rule). Given how much is being published it becomes harder and harder to find a niche, but they do exist. Too few people ever think outside the box.

How does this fit into men and boys reading less? One organization says Boys read 10 minutes per day less than girls  (we aren’t counting texts and social media postings, but real reading). Another says boys generally have lower levels of literacy comprehension. If these boys do not become avid reader they will most likely become men who are not avid reads, particularly of fiction.

I think the solution is, without degrading the literacy levels of girls and women, is simple: get kids, boys especially, excited about reading. Find new ways to introduce reading, whether through traditional publishing, e-books, or short stories. Make the material somewhat engaging, perhaps removing the “classics” (this is another blogpost!) with books kids might be interested in. Encourage parents with elementary school or pre-school kids to read at least four nights a week to the kids. 

What do you think? Why do men and boys generally read less? Am I being too short-sighted and not seeing the overall lower reading levels? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

COMING UP NEXT: I will post a Vlog (or link to) my review of one vlog by John Green, Author of “The Fault in Our Stars”. I wanted to comment on a particular video of his on Israel and Gaza. 

Coming up soon: The art of storytelling. How many of your readers know how to tell persuasive stories? I will begin a series here where I will explain the art of storytelling and how to keep an audience hooked.

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