Men Don’t Read – True or False?

Jason Pinter recently wrote an article for The Huffington Post arguing that the publishing industry is alienating men by solely marketing books toward women. As a former editor, he talks about the difficulty he had getting A Lion’s Tale by Chris Jericho (a professional wrestler) published. He writes:

Because if you’ve worked in publishing, you’ve heard the tired old maxim: Men Don’t Read. Try to acquire or sell a book aimed predominantly at men, and odds are you’ll be told Men Don’t Read. This story is not an isolated incident. And while the book I’m discussing is not everybody’s piece of cake, it is a microcosm of what I believe is a huge problem within the industry. If you keep telling yourself something, regardless of its validity, eventually you’ll begin to believe it. So because publishers rarely publish for men and don’t market towards men, somehow that equates to our entire gender having given up on the reading books. Hence the mantra ‘Men Don’t Read.’ THIS MUST END.

So is the idea that “men don’t read” just a myth? I have to say no. Ask any teacher or librarian and they will tell you that it much more difficult to get boys to read than girls. School Library Journal published an interesting article about this problem in 2004 called “Why Johnny Won’t Read” by Michael Sullivan. He writes:

Boys read comic books, baseball cards, and cereal boxes. They are less likely to read books; and when they do, they often don’t read the ones we want them to. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one relates to role models. Boys identify with the men in their lives, and males, in general, don’t read as many books as women. A 1996 study by Donald Pottorff, Deborah Phelps-Zientarski, and Michelle Skovera (“Gender Perceptions of Elementary and Middle School Students About Literacy at Home and School” in the Journal of Research and Development in Education) shows that mothers are 10 times more likely to read books than fathers. On the other hand, dads are 10 times more likely to read newspapers than moms.

So why aren’t men reading? Pinter argues that it’s a vicious cycle—that publishers don’t think men read, so they don’t market books toward them, which results in even fewer men reading. I think the key issue is getting boys to read at a young age. If parents, teachers, and librarians can find the right book for a child at the right time, they will become a lifelong reader.

So what do you think? Do the men in your life like to read? Do you think women are more likely to buy books than men? Leave a comment below!

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  • Amy

    In my observation I have seen more female voracious readers and book buyers, but I have also seen a fair amount of men buying and reading lots of books. Both of my father and one of my grandfathers have always read a lot (my grandfather is a huge fan of Nora Roberts and romance books actually!) so I’ve always seen men reading. What I think is another thing though, besides the father not reading, is the men that boys see as their heroes. How many guys on TV shows / movies read compared to women? Do we see or hear of pro athletes reading any amount? I don’t know much about these things but have to wonder if that would be a cause as well.

    • Kristen

      I think you make a really good point about pro athletes. Boys look up to them and they tend to endorse things like video games. I’m sure this makes playing video games seem much cooler than reading books.

  • Betty

    This is a very interesting article and question. It seems that when I think about the men in my life, they are all avid readers. My father reads multiple newspapers daily, and alot of history. My husband is an avid reader and just purchased a book be hasn’t put down called To Pee Or Not To Pee… by James R. Norris… definitely a man’s topic. He’s learning everything he needs to know about his prostate for his entire life, what questions to ask his doctor, and what to know if surgery is ever needed. He said they were almost sold out. Someone’s buying them!

  • Aaron Stackpole

    Your argument fails as soon as you claim men don’t read books and then start talking about boys. Yeah, boys don’t read books. Men, however, read a lot of books.

  • Nicole

    My husband rarely ever reads since I bought him a Sling Adapter for Valentine’s Day. Now he can stream our entire live DISH Network programming and DVR recordings onto his Smartphone and watch TV wherever he goes. I work at DISH so I’m constantly around TV and I like to enjoy a book when I get home. As for my husband, he watches TV while he’s out and about which I don’t mind because when he gets home he has time to do things around the home that used to get put off for TV time.