What do you like to read? And why?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : chatterbox: the amplified to rock forum : One Thread

I'm having to hold back my louder exclamations of "right on!" in response to Nanette's response (and that's the last of the meta you'll hear from me) to Allan's thoroughly wrongheaded summation of what women read. I'm always very suspicious whenever someone tries to sum up the behavior of an entire group of people, particularly when that group constitutes half of our species.

So how about an attempt to get the opinions of a slightly broader cross-section of the population? Ladies? Gents? What do you like to read? And why?

-- Anonymous, August 23, 2000


I should probably go first, huh?

For a long, long time I only read fiction, always in the form of novels. And while I certainly have read and enjoyed books where the main character is a girl or woman who triumphs over adversity, the theme of "female triumphing over adversity" is never what gets me to read a book in the first place. In fact, I'm much more fond of the "male humanities professor faces life crisis and pulls his shit together, or he doesn't, but things tend to work out somehow" genre of novel.

I do insist on fictional characters being real to me, but I don't equate "real" with "in trouble".

Where was I? Oh yeah, books I like. I still do love a good novel, but recently I find myself drawn to nonfiction - books like The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (about an Hmong immigrant family's clash with the American health system), or Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (a recent biography of the titular duchess, who was one of the world's first media darlings and a shrewd politician when it wasn't the thing for ladies to get into politics) - because I'm curious about how other people lived and live. I know my own experience is extremely limited; I want to get into the heads and lives of other people, and their (wildly different from my) lives.

There's more to it than that, but I think I've said quite enough for now.

-- Anonymous, August 23, 2000

Weblogs, ha ha.

In terms of books I read mostly non-fiction. I used to read a lot of books about music but there are so few good ones and so many which just exist to bolster 'rock history'. I read the odd philosophy book - I'm really attracted to those wacky Continentals but find the intentionally difficult style too, well, intentionally difficult. I just bought Francis Wheen's biography of Marx, which looks a hoot. My favourite books this year have been Naomi Klein's No Logo, which pretty much convinced me to quit my current job, and Stephen Poole's Trigger Happy, the most intelligent book yet written about videogames.

I should read more modern fiction: I find fiction very daunting for some reason. Recently I suspect it's been that my own life has been plagued by its fair share of indirect crises, so reading about other people's crises didn't appeal. Maybe if I had read about them I'd have had more insight into how to handle mine.

I also used to read comics all the time, but I've basically quit.

-- Anonymous, August 24, 2000

i live with 2 other girls and the reading that happens in our house is pretty diverse. we share a lot of books, but we all have different areas of interest. one of my roommates is reading a book on the history of race and the way it effected history. ad the other is really into Proust. currently i am reading a book of short stories called "Bad Haircuts" written about growing up in the 70's. My fave author for the last couple years has been Douglas Coupland, so I like reading stuff like him, and i seek out interesting modern writing. Conversely, i used to love classics, like anything out of Jane Austen and people like that. So sure, you can get me with a good romance story but it cant be cheesy.

As for nonfiction, i am a nerd and i admit it. I was a classics major in college, so i like reading books about Augustus and trade in ancient Athens.

I also like reading magazine, lots of music ones, but i also like reading Vanity Fair, its better than i ever imagined. and i read crap like Cosmo to entertain me on a nite when i am bored and want to be mindless. plus i think its good to keep up with what other women are thinking.

-- Anonymous, August 24, 2000

This Allan character definitely overstated things in his short and confusing essay, but are we really going to deny that there are differences in what men and women like to read? And if there are differences, what are they and why do they exist? Are these questions not meant to be explored?

Let's not think for a moment that twenty-something indie-rock fans from the suburbs who have internet access and the leisure time to contribute to random discussions like this in any way represent the masses. This is one very tiny little subculture. So what is true here is not true everywhere.

What I like to read...well, I've found that as I get older I have less interest in novels. Through my twenties, it was one after another but now I have a hard time getting through them. Maybe I'm sensing death and I want to cram in all the factual knowledge I can before they plant me, but I find myself reading mostly science- related stuff, even though I have no background in science. Richard Dawkins, S.J. Gould, Richard Feynman. And then there are music mags...

-- Anonymous, August 24, 2000

In reply to Mark - received wisdom has it, and my bookshop years backed this up, that women will read almost everything that men read, but that men won't cross the river and read, say, romance lit. There were genres of books that we sold which more men than women read, certainly - science fiction being an obvious example. But there it was 80/20, and with romance fiction it was 0/100.

Actually, my Dad used to read romance fiction all the time - he was convinced there was a mathematical formula behind the big series (Mills & Boon) which if he could crack it would make him rich. There might have been but he didn't find it.

-- Anonymous, August 24, 2000

Do men even read? Truth is, the only people I've personally known who have a true, deep love of books and reading (except me and my boyfriend) have been women. And they read *everything*. As for the Venus/Mars thing, I don't understand it. This is an issue for people who follow professional sports and Ally McBeal, not me.

-- Anonymous, August 24, 2000

Also in response to Mark, of course the predominantly white, suburban indie rock fans who make up the larger percentage of Nanette's readership are not the masses. It never occurred to me than anyone would think that, or would think that I thought that. We do, however, consititute a larger cross-section of the population than the one woman Allan spoke with about what women, as a whole, read.

Although I started this topic as a reaction to Allan's comments, I didn't do so to get a Big Answer to a Big Question about gender differences and how they play out in our choices of reading material. It's a question that interests me, but I'm not trying to get any kind of meaningful sociological data out of this.

-- Anonymous, August 24, 2000

When I was a teen I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, for no reason other than that it pleased me. At college I switched mostly to Serious Literature, which I happily switched to. Now I am slowly looking for poetry that I actually enjoy, prefering Big Postmodern Novels and getting in some philosophy when I can. List of books I've begun since, say, January, but haven't finished yet: Pynchon's Mason and Dixon, Borges' Complete Fictions, John Berryman's Dream Songs, a book on haiku, Wittgenstein's blue and brown books, an anthology of Russian prose from the postwar, pre-thaw period, Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project, Moby Dick, and probably some more I forgot about and consequently will never remember to pick up before I forget I ever read them at all. This is a sick, sick condition. I should just read one damn book at a time. I just went to the library to get 5 more last night.

-- Anonymous, August 26, 2000

right now i'm reading "the wind-up bird chronicle" by haruki murakami, "so you want to be a wizard?" by diane duane, and "the first quarter: a 25 year history of video games" by stephen kent. i like to read fiction mostly. i like raymond carver. "the collector" by john fowles. "the rachel papers" by martin amis. "the cement garden" by ian mcewan. some science-fiction is good too. read a lot of william gibson at one point. i dont like magazines for the most part. can't find any about anything i'm interested in, and i hate the ads...its like having a static, 2-dimensional tv in your hands. i read a lot about music and films on the web. i like to read the backs of food packaging, especially small private brands, to see where the product is made, and then fantasize about what it would be like to live in that town and work at the plant and come home each day to a small apartment with only a shitty black and white tv. or other similar type daydreams. i also skim through and read some articles each week from the boston phoenix since i live in cambridge and its free and theres a lot of music/art/film reviews and political diatribes. i guess thats it mostly. i'd be surprised if any of you actually read all of this....i found myself skipping over the longer paragraphs on these postings. anyway...

-- Anonymous, March 09, 2001

Sophie, Have you read Saul Bellow? Herzog or Humboldt's Gift. If you like male humanities professors facing life crises and getting their shit together or maybe they don't, you'll enjoy these titles. Plus it's some of the most delicious prose [collective groan, everybody] out there.

-- Anonymous, June 26, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ