Do you ever wonder why women are the main buyers and readers of fiction, are more likely to join bookclubs than men, and are more likely to attend literary festivals and visit literary landmarks than men? It's a strange conundrum; we know from contact with our volunteers how passionately both sexes feel about the importance of reading (although we have more female Schoolreaders than male, men are strongly represented on our team).
A new book by Helen Taylor, an experienced teacher, scholar of women's writing, and literature festival director, draws on over 500 interviews with and questionnaires from women readers and writers and attempts to draw some conclusions about our reading habits. In 'Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of our Lives', Taylor describes how, where, and when British women read fiction, and examines why stories and writers influence the way female readers understand and shape their own life stories. She even treads on hallowed ground and tries to explain why, through the decades, 'Pride and Prejudice' and 'Jane Eyre' consistently top polls of women's favourite novels.
Ian McEwan once declared that 'When women stop reading, the novel will be dead'. Thankfully, with annual UK books sales hovering around the £3 billion mark for the last 5 years, this isn't a prospect we need to worry about, but in any case we at Schoolreaders beg, on behalf of our male readers, to differ. Taylor's book is however a lovely analysis of why so many contemporary women treasure their reading time and count their best-loved books as some of their most precious possessions.
'Why Women Read Fiction: The Stories of Our Lives' by Helen Taylor, published by Oxford University Press on 5th December 2019.