With Father's Day approaching, Read Street readers have been chewing on this question: Why don't men read novels?
It all was sparked by a Washington Post review noting that polls suggest only 20 percent of fiction readers are male. The reporter later suggested that men have dropped novels (if they ever held them to begin with) for narrative nonfiction such as The Perfect Storm and Into Thin Air.
In conversations with my friends, women are usually flush with recommendations about novels, while men talk about books relating to a) business, b) sports and c) the business of sports (with a thriller or mystery thrown in occasionally).
So what do men want? They seem to be looking to books for practical knowledge, a sense of accomplishment or vicarious adventure. And, what novels would be a good Father's Day gift?
Here's what some readers said:
"Except for the silly manly ones, novels are about emotions - not the long suit of most males. The same two words - "Let's talk" - grab a woman's attention but send a man scurrying in search of a place to hide, unless the talk is about business or sports. Novels, of course, are filled with emotion-laden talking."
- Patrick Lackey
"Books these days seem to be created specifically for a market. Oh, you're a recent divorcee? Read this book about getting back in the dating scene? Going through menopause? Read this humorous self-help book with tips no one has ever heard before! ... Ugh."
"Recommend Fidali's Way by George Mastras, with male main character and manly wartime situation in Kashmir. ... With some romance thrown in, of course."
- Harvee Lau
"I think a deeper problem is the attitude toward reading that young men grow up with. ... Reading fiction is an acceptable pastime for little girls, but it isn't for the vast majority of boys."
"I know very few men who read fiction books. ... They are shocked to see my apartment walls lined with full bookcases. However, back in my Navy days, sailors loved reading books like James Bond novels."
- John Bohnert