Blimey, what a stunning finding!

It is an inconvenient truth that some book fans will be quick to deny.

But according to a new survey, most people in Britain prefer to read books by writers of their own gender – and tend to read fewer of those written by the opposite sex.

The research, which comes after claims of sexism in publishing, found a stark gender divide in reading habits in the 40,000 people polled.

Male authors accounted for 90 per cent of men’s 50 most-read titles this year, while the reverse was true for the women’s titles.

One of the books on the women’s list by a man was Robert Galbraith, or JK Rowling.

It’s almost as if chick lit didn’t exist, isn’t it? Or that male writers producing such don’t take female pen names. Or even that plenty of female writers have produced the male pulps but not under their own names.

Publishers worked this out well over half a century ago. Aren’t we lucky to have modern science, eh?

32 thoughts on “Blimey, what a stunning finding!”

  1. I’m not convinced writers are often very good at writing narrative from the point of view of the opposite sex. Men can write female characters perfectly well, but when they try to write from the point of view of a female main character, I personally tend to find it unconvincing: it’s the writer’s fantasy of how he wishes women were. And so much good writing is in the first person.

    Ever read any Lawrence Block?

    “The incredibly hot woman just loved having sex, as much of it as possible, preferably while wearing exciting outfits. But what really turned her on was writers. Oh, Larry might have looked a bit drab and scruffy and had no charisma to speak of, but the thought of the way he sat at his laptop, working on his novella, creating characters and plotlines, just made her want to rip all his clothes off in a frenzy and insist that he sodomize her.”

    Sad.

  2. That looks like an accurate percentage when I look at my large book collection considering I read just science fiction and loads of non-fiction.

  3. bloke (not) in spain

    @Rob Harries
    SF, or Speculative Fiction as I prefer to call it, seems to be the one genre where readers don’t give a toss for the gender of the writer.

  4. I personally tend to find it unconvincing: it’s the writer’s fantasy of how he wishes women were.

    That was the central failure of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, in my opinion. The author wrote what he wished he’d been into the lead role and the kind of birds he liked to bone into the rest.

  5. bloke (not) in spain

    Thanx for the prompt, Tim.
    Bit off topic, but owing to a recent post I’ve at last gotten round to reading the Hunger Games trilogy.
    Surprisingly good stuff for a young adults targeted market. It certainly explores the way conflict & entertainment are beginning to occupy the same media space.
    First two film’s screenplay seem to have stuck very much with the books. Be interesting to see if they continue to.

  6. BniS

    I haven’t read the books but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief in the films.

    Hey, Pres. Snow, you’re worried about rebellion in the districts? Here’s an idea. Totally off the wall, etc. but why not stop kidnapping and killing their children? That might calm things down a bit.

  7. Thanx for the prompt, Tim.

    To be fair I thought the first book was okay, worth a read – albeit the strong points are probably not what the author thought they are.

  8. bloke (not) in spain

    ” why not stop kidnapping and killing their children?”

    I gather it’s intended to demonstrate their subjugation.

    Author modeled it on New Labour.

  9. Squander Two,

    I disagree. I think there may be a case that the sexes have different interests to some degree (how socially constructed this is, we can debate forever) and thus tend to write for “their own side”, but I simply don’t believe there is some gulf of understanding between the sexes. Every writer has to get into the heads of persons different from themself- in sex, age, class, occupation, etc etc and I think any good writer can do that. But then I think there is far less innate psychological difference between the sexes than most people believe, whether feminist or masculist.

  10. Tim N @ 12.19

    You nailed it. Exactly my feeling. The books were written for the greater glory of the author who is the lead character (or the other way round).

  11. Much, perhaps most, fiction contains an element of Mary Sue. I don’t see that as problematic, the trick is not making it so blatant as to grate. Most heroes/heroines are in some sense- possibly very strongly- the person we’d like to be, at least in fantasy if not in reality.

  12. Philip Scott Thomas

    Every writer has to get into the heads of persons different from themself- in sex, age, class, occupation, etc etc and I think any good writer can do that.

    Receptionist: How do you write women so well?

    Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson): I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.
    – As Good As It Gets, 1997

  13. bloke (not) in spain

    “Most heroes/heroines are in some sense- possibly very strongly- the person we’d like to be, at least in fantasy if not in reality.”

    You ever read Iain Banks’ “The Wasp Factory”?

  14. On a tenuously related point, does anyone know why Kindle books are VAT rated but print books are not? This seems strange to me.

  15. So Much for Subtlety

    The Sage – “But JK Rowling isn’t a man.”

    Rowling was told specifically by her publisher that she had to use her initials, not her full name. Because boys don’t read books written by girls.

    Which is why, of course, Jane Austen did not published under her own name – as a “huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush”

    bloke (not) in spain – “SF, or Speculative Fiction as I prefer to call it, seems to be the one genre where readers don’t give a toss for the gender of the writer.”

    That depends. Given the SF world is tearing itself apart at the moment because the Social Justice Warriors are insisting on gender issues being first and foremost. But back in the good old days, C. L. Moore was widely believed to be a man. Some people refused to believe otherwise. Her long-time writing partner and husband met her when he wrote her a fan letter – under the impression she was a man.

    Tim Newman – “That was the central failure of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, in my opinion. The author wrote what he wished he’d been into the lead role and the kind of birds he liked to bone into the rest.”

    The central failure of this piece of Trot agitprop is that the author is obsessed with non-existent Nazis busy not abusing women. While ignoring the fact that his homeland is being over-run by Islamists who do hate women and have pushed the rape figures so high that the UN has reprimanded one or other Scandinavian country.

    Tim Newman – “I am yet to be convinced that To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone With the Wind appeal more to women than men by virtue of their authors’ sex.”

    I totally believe it for Gone with the Wind.

    bloke (not) in spain – “Bit off topic, but owing to a recent post I’ve at last gotten round to reading the Hunger Games trilogy. Surprisingly good stuff for a young adults targeted market. It certainly explores the way conflict & entertainment are beginning to occupy the same media space.”

    I love the way that it tries to position itself as a feminist tract for our times. Empowered women etc etc. But actually, in the first novel at least, she does nothing. She is a passive hanger on of the men. Kills (more or less) no one. Wins by a fluke because the men white knight for her.

  16. Tim Newman

    I wrote a lengthy blog post…

    Indeed you did and very good it was too.

    I’m afraid I’m going to have to steal deus-ex-machinons though.

  17. On a tenuously related point, does anyone know why Kindle books are VAT rated but print books are not? This seems strange to me.

    Because the UK got a set of exceptions from the VAT rules, including on for printed material, when VAT started.

    Digital supplies of stuff, which came along later (as a significant part of the economy), weren’t given any exemption and digital supply of books didn’t inherit an exemption from printed supply. Remember, the acquis can only grow – it can never shrink.

    On a similar vein, see the fuss about VATMOSS and the lack of inheriting the current VAT threshold exemption. I just consider myself (okay, my company) despite being VAT registered, lucky because we only make “digital supplies” to other businesses (and it is a very small part of our business.)

  18. Ian,

    > I disagree. I think there may be a case that the sexes have different interests to some degree (how socially constructed this is, we can debate forever) and thus tend to write for “their own side”, but I simply don’t believe there is some gulf of understanding between the sexes. Every writer has to get into the heads of persons different from themself- in sex, age, class, occupation, etc etc and I think any good writer can do that. But then I think there is far less innate psychological difference between the sexes than most people believe, whether feminist or masculist.

    But none of that is my point. All I said is that writers tend not to be very good at writing from the point of view of the opposite sex. Whether they do it badly because it’s impossible or because of some psychological gulf between the sexes or because they’re fantasising about the kind of men or women they want to be fucking is another matter.

    My Lawrence Block paraphrase isn’t even exaggeration. Seriously.

  19. bloke (not) in spain

    “I love the way that it tries to position itself as a feminist tract for our times. Empowered women etc etc. But actually, in the first novel at least, she does nothing. She is a passive hanger on of the men. Kills (more or less) no one. Wins by a fluke because the men white knight for her.”
    Shame you didn’t get to the final volume.
    Usefully written with a first person protagonist, because her internal dialogue is integral to the story. Part of the final denouement is her realisation she’s been seeing the two central male characters from the perspective of what use they’ve been to her.
    But no plot spoilers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *