We’ve had a few varying discussions about who reads – from who reads romance to who reads more fiction to who reads more in general and is reading going the way of the Dodo bird?
Add to the list of “The world is coming to an end and reading decline is the shifty canary!” articles: NPR’s report on why women read more than men. The article starts off talking about gender, moves into neurons, then ends with the now-habitual “reading habits are declining and we’re all going to die!” angsty handwringing.
The idea that women read more fiction: that’s fascinating. I’m not sure if it’s as easy as the article makes it seem to chalk the difference up to empathy and psychosexual differences, but it’s definitely true in the scientific sample of my household that I read more fiction than Hubby. Of course, I read more than Hubby. I have a commute on public transportation; he drives and listens to “yelly sports men” aka ESPN radio. I read romance all the damn time; he reads a mixture of biography, history, and some adventure fiction. Is my colloquial experience then proof of a gender divide? Meh. Who knows. I don’t now if it’s possible to ever accurately survey a population’s reading habits, because what you read – sorry, what you admit to reading – is such a marker of intelligence and class that an honest survey is practically impossible to create.
However, I am so weary of the “young people don’t read and we’re all going to DIE!” angsty handwringing. I don’t think reading is dying out, no matter what this, that or the other survey may say. Surely I can easily be labeled as Polly Anna optimistic about this issue, but I just don’t buy it. I think, if anything, the continued hybridization of genres will create renovated definitions of reading. Just look at the hybrids now: romance, videogames, and manga are merging into an entire line of fiction, and movies, books, and television shows are being made from and into graphic novels. I think the blurring lines between visual and written, digital and printed word will probably continue to blur, and existing definitions will have to be amended to make room for not only what people read but how they read.
Either way, I’m going to sit with a book. It’s readin’ time.