I don’t know if it’s my age, but I seem to be reading at least one book a week. I’ve always enjoyed reading, bur recently it has become somewhat of an obsession. Anyway, I’ve been wading my way through all manner of tomes - some, I have had in the house for years, but never got around to reading and others…well, a mixture of buying locally, at airports - or been given them by family and friends. Pretty well like most people I suppose.
Nevertheless, in the past a book might last me a month, as I’d pick it up, put it down - get bored, skip a chapter, or just give up on it. Nowadays, I line up various titles and place them in a sort of ‘batting’ order and find myself slowly making my way through them - unless, or until, severe boredom takes over and I decide to abandon ship and move onto something else. I also have a theory that male and female reading habits are almost diametrically opposed. Mostly, I find that women go in for fiction, not exclusively - but mostly so I reckon and men tend towards non-fiction and biographical writing.
So there we are then - that’s the reading habits of men and women neatly, and most probably, wrongly categorised! However, it seems to me that ‘by-and-large’ women are a little more dedicated to reading than their menfolk. Take for instance the humble ‘Book Club.’ I was once told that - at a guess, there were at least twenty such clubs in operation on the island; all it seems, exclusively the domain of women. Apparently men don’t ‘Do’ book clubs. You know the sort of thing, whereupon books are critically ‘done-to-death’ on a bi-monthly basis at random restaurants across the island, wine is often involved I’m told, along with cutting literary critiques and generous deserts. Men on the other hand, might mention that they are into a good book and after forgetting for about three months to pass it on - then, slip it under a table in a bar as if it were soft porn, rather than a mildly diverting, ghost written book by a rather likeable Premiership footballer.
Back to my point i.e. that women read fiction and men prefer other forms of literature, that is not to say that in the genre that is fiction, there is not a huge difference between a good old fashioned ‘bodice ripper’ and that Booker Prize winning effort, that is mostly unreadable and by page 20 it has been abandoned for something a little less excruciatingly tedious. Alas, as women can tend towards romance and occasional breathless prose - men, on the other hand, seem to like a bit of blood & guts and masculine authority, which is a bit of a worry on a number of different levels if you ask me. Indeed, to suppose that women only enjoy romantic, lifestyle, or filial books, is doing them a disservice and is probably deeply sexist as well. Sometimes, for a man it’s good to cross the divide into something other than self congratulatory political biographies (I can’t wait to get my hands on David Cameron’s 500 page apology to a nation!) and the usual ‘Sharks & Nazi’s’ literary output that we are apparently all so obsessed by.
Then there is the whole business of having ‘On the go’ as many as three books at a time - and indeed, sometimes even more? Personally, I can only cope with two different titles at the same time. Even then, one will be rather ‘heavy’ where the other might be a ‘light’ read, a sort of antidote to each other - read perhaps, with your own mood in mind. I must confess to at least one type of book that I dislike and mostly avoid like the plague, which funnily enough, is easily the most popular of any book - in any bookshop, anywhere in the world. You see, I find - so called ‘thrillers’ not very thrilling at all. If the author is a big name - it seems that a small team of ‘assistants’ actually write most of it and he fills in the gaps! Mostly, I find them so formulaic that in my head - I am two chapters in front of them for most of the time. Mind you, so as to prove that I am no literary snob - I really enjoy the works of J. Archer (No, not the England fast bowler!) as well as those by Hilary Mantel - she of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies fame, although you do have to concentrate - but, that’s the whole point of reading a good book, surely?
I am trying to work out where my recent literary enthusiasm has come from. Some of it might be to do with the fact that ‘regular’ television at the moment is pretty dire. It could also be about something regarding the news - because although I write a political column for this newspaper, I can barely bring myself to sit through a news bulletin without screaming like a banshee. Indeed, I wonder if book sales are on the rise as reported in the UK press recently - if so, it is hardly surprising given the bizarre nature of the world at this time. Like someone who has rediscovered a lost joy, I find myself actually making time to read; not just as a 20 minute sleep inducer upon climbing into bed - but, finding an hour in the afternoon to sit in the shade and take in a book. Moreover, I am completing The Mountbattens by Andrew Lownie and firmly intend to find a book with even more illicit and gender fluid sex in it, as I don’t want to become too worthy for my own good, now do I?