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Good Reads Gender Breakdown – My Thoughts

About a month ago, Goodreads published an infographic (I’ve posted it below) showing that men and women read largely their own gender. Roughly 95% of our reading material will be of an author who possesses the same genitals that we do. Though it threw up some interesting statistics (specifically that women are more likely to read new fiction), I feel there is so much more that could have been addressed.

Specifically, we could have learnt a lot more if we took issues of genre into account. What is it about books written by each gender that appeals more to readers of that gender? When people read the opposite gender, are there particular genres we read? Is there a subject trend? Which genre(s) have the broadest appeal (my guess would be crime)? Which genre(s) has/have the largest disparity (I suspect it would be chic lit and war fiction)?

In the last couple of years I have read these female writers (leaving aside the collections and the self-published work):

Lindsey Davis, Historical crime: Yes, I am dragging my heals on Falco but that’s only because I know I have only about 8 books to go in the series 😦
Jutta Profijit, Crime: never heard of her? No, neither had I but Morgue Drawer 4 (I’m delighted to discover it’s an ongoing series) is one of the funniest books I have ever read.
Suzanne Collins, YA/sci fi: Seriously, if you don’t know who she is, what rock have you been living under?
Alice Roberts, science: Esteemed scientist is as good a writer as she is a TV presenter
J.K. Rowling, fantasy
Jane Austen, literature
Mary Shelley, sci fi / horror

If you don’t know who any of the above three are then there’s no hope for you.

What do you think, does this surprise you? Do you think the data tells us anything of value?


12 thoughts on “Good Reads Gender Breakdown – My Thoughts

  1. I’m also interested in the implications of men reading longer books. Are men intentionally reaching for longer books, or is “chick lit” just comprised of shorter books?

    1. That’s a good point. I noticed it, thought about it and couldn’t really come up with any reason for why that would be the case.

      Bigger books are not necessarily better and shorter books are not necessarily dumbed down. I’ve just finished A Game of Thrones and I felt it was too long. In my reviews, I regularly criticise books that I feel are overwritten and complain just as equally at books I feel were too short. I don’t have a preference for longer books, or for shorter ones, I just want them to be an appropriate length for the story.

      Well you know why chic lit is shorter… it’s because your pretty little heads can’t cope with too much information all at once – you might need the smelling salts (in case of doubt, I really AM joking).

      1. It’s true that length definitely doesn’t equal quality. I’ve read terrible long books and terrible short books and amazing long books and amazing short books.

        Alas, I’m just a mere woman, couldn’t possibly read over 300 pages of one story or any genres besides romance!

    1. I don’t know about sexist, I’m more inclined to put it down to general reading preferences. We all want different things from out entertainment but there’s probably some generalisations we can make – men are more inclined towards action and women are more inclined towards relationships.

      Do you think that’s a factor?

      1. Well, I’m more inclined towards action than relationships. I would guess I like a 70/30 balance between the two (favoring action).

      2. Me too actually. I want characters to develop, I want to see into their souls and what makes them tick, but I don’t want character development to be the entirety of the plot.

  2. Oddly.. most of the books I read are by male writers. In contrast, most of the blogs I read are written by women. I am not so sure that one is connected to the other, but I would be curious to see a study done on that.

  3. I suspect that because GoodReads selected the most prolific readers from both genders that we see some of these biases that probably are not present in the larger population.
    The most prolific female readers are probably burning through tonnes of short romances (classically the mills and booners) , where the most prolific male readers are romping through action thrillers (Cussler and so on, and biographies and the like). That alone could slant the results.

    Crime readers will appear in both genders list and probably have little or no gender differences.

    Fantasy and Sci-fi are predominantly perceived as male reads (although fantasy less than sci-fi), and tend to produce longer books – especially with collections and omnibus editions. Even though women do read these books, they are probably not amongst the most prolific readers on GoodReads. Where as for men…

    I also suspect that the ages of the readers may be dramatically different with younger female readers and older male readers being the most prolific readers. Hence the variance in the book publication years.

    Just my thoughts anyway…

    1. Thanks as ever CJ. I think you’re absolutely right, the numbers will vary greatly between generations too. The more I think about it, the more I feel Good Reads has given us nothing of real substance to examine. “Men” and “Women” are not a monolith.

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