City Life

Reading’s gender gap and who should be stepping up to close it

The upcoming slate of events at Bookshop Santa Cruz reflects a recent trend: Men aren’t reading in the numbers that women are, especially in the realm of fiction and literature.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Weekender newsletter. Be the first to hear about arts and entertainment news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Wallace’s email newsletter here and and text alerts here.

Recently I noticed something unusual about the upcoming schedule of events at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Of the 14 authors Bookshop will be presenting for live readings and appearances in the coming weeks, none of them are men.

I suspect that this is not some plot to convert Bookshop into Herland (for those old-timers who might remember the defunct women’s bookstore in Santa Cruz), but more likely merely a reflection of a very real trend in the publishing world that has been going on for some years now: Men aren’t reading in the numbers that women are, especially in the realm of fiction and literature.

Why is this happening? The answer is complex and multifaceted. But a big part of it is that men simply aren’t reading female authors or books with female protagonists (even though women seem to be fine reading male authors). The problem will be compounded as the publishing industry, quite understandably, more and more goes after the demographic who are reading and buying books: women.

This matters if you believe, as I do, that reading books nurtures empathy, opens minds and provides a wider perspective for all people, regardless of gender. The solution is not up to the publishing industry or retailers like Bookshop. This one is on men to read more novels and more books written by women. And Bookshop presents an opportunity — many opportunities, in fact — to find that next book, that next author. I would encourage everyone to challenge themselves to open up their world through reading. And visiting with many of these novelists and poets coming to Bookshop is a great way to do it.