The Debate- Fiction v. Non-fiction

Competition? Another Fight Club? “Bouts” between halves? Read on…


EDMONTON – Women read fiction – men read magazines. OK, some men read novels, but most read non-fiction, manuals, information texts, and newspapers – but novels? Not so much.

Why is that?
“Fiction doesn’t appeal to me,” shrugs a male colleague.
“I can’t sit still long enough to read a book,” another male friend explains. “It’s not exciting enough. In sports, you’re cheering for a team. If you’re reading a book – you’re just reading a book.”

Interesting. My husband likes to read about business, world leaders and health. He buys Time and Maclean’s. But a novel? Nope. No interest.

This intrigues me. Most women I know love to read fiction. We swap books, and share tips on hot authors and new novels. Reading is a delicious and decadent way to spend an afternoon.

Guys think it’s a waste of time, and they certainly wouldn’t be interested in getting together as a group to analyze the latest Oprah book club pick.

“I’d rather get together and play poker,” opines a male friend. “There’s a stigma associated with book clubs – you have to share your feelings.”

God forbid. There’s clearly a gender divide when it comes to reading.
Heather Blair is a professor in the faculty of education at the University of Alberta. She says boys and girls talk, write and read differently. Girls are more in touch with their emotions, they like to read and write about feelings, fears and hardships in their lives.

Blair says boys prefer “Action, adventure, sports, racing, science fiction and fantasy.” They’re drawn to non-fiction, and are more computer literate than their female classmates, doing much of their reading online.

Boys may be forced to read novels in school, but once they graduate and have the freedom to read what they want, they often skip the fiction aisle at Chapters. It’s estimated only 20 per cent of the novels sold worldwide are bought by men.

And the number of male readers is on the decline. A Statistics Sweden report found one in three men between the ages of 16 and 84 admit to never reading novels.

When it comes to unskilled male manual workers, 46 per cent say they don’t read at all.
Isn’t that sad? What if they could read, drink beer and watch football with the guys at the same time? Aha! Now we’re talking.

A group of guys in Virginia has found a way to combine a love of “fine” literature with a more traditionally male pastime. The Charlottesville Men’s Book Club meets during halftime of Monday Night Football games.

OK, so their book selection includes titles like Why Do Men Have Nipples? and I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It, but hey – they’re reading.

Oprah’s doing her part to entice more men to read. Some of her recent book club selections have featured memoirs by men.

Interestingly, the only two scandals associated with Winfrey’s televised book club have involved male authors – from James Frey’s public admission that he fabricated sections of A Million Little Pieces to Jonathan Franzen’s ill-advised comment that being picked for Oprah’s book club somehow tainted his novel The Corrections.

Oprah promptly withdrew her invite, which sent Franzen into a back-pedalling, apologetic frenzy. But Oprah’s not deterred. Her latest book club selection is The Road by the notoriously press shy and reclusive male author Cormac McCarthy.

It’s a post apocalyptic-novel about a father and son travelling through a barren post-nuclear landscape.
Maybe more novels written by men – about men – that get mass media attention will convince more guys to put down their magazines and pick up books.

Schools have to do their part by acknowledging the gender differences when it comes to literacy, and offering more books and reading materials that appeal to boys.

And dads have a big role to play too. Take time to sit down and read to your son. Don’t let women have all the fun when it comes to enjoying great literature.

1 Response to “The Debate- Fiction v. Non-fiction”

  1. 1 Ami T. May 10, 2007 at 11:09 am

    ….so, women, reading 80% of the fiction literature, enrich themselves in some aspects of life – perhaps the softer skills. While men, read Soup-up-your-car, How-to-become-a-better-leader/manager, Solve-world-hunger, Save-the-planet plus newspapers…… is this more valuable for our competitive day-to-day lives, or perhaps a better preparation for becoming a better voter – knowledgeable in current issues?

    The right answer is probably a mix.

    Nevertheless, l like being a man.

    Just a thought


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