Goodreads Blog

Sex and Reading: A Look at Who's Reading Whom

Posted by Elizabeth on November 19, 2014
What do men and women want when it comes to books? Are they reading their own gender? And what do they think of books written by the opposite sex?

This year the #readwomen movement inspired us to take a closer look at where readers fall along gender lines. There's a lot of well-documented press about the fact that women's books tend to have "girly" covers instead of gender-neutral ones, and the VIDA count shows us that traditional book reviewers are predominantly male and books being reviewed in "top tier" publications are mostly by men.

Together with the stats team, engineers, and designers, we looked at a sample size of 40,000 active members on the site, 20,000 men and 20,000 women, to determine what they were reading and what they were liking.

So, enjoy this infographic! Let the debate begin. And as the year draws to a close, what's your 2014 reading list breakdown look like? Mostly men? Mostly women? About even? Take a look. You may be surprised.

Coming soon: For our next infographic, we'll take a genre-specific look at reading books—along gender lines. First up, literary fiction!



Comments (showing 1-50 of 586) (586 new)


message 1: by Sara (new)

Sara Naveed Nice! As far as I am concerned, I enjoy reading books of both sexes. :)


message 2: by Booklovinglady (last edited Nov 19, 2014 01:59AM) (new)

Booklovinglady I agree with Sara, as I too can enjoy books written by both sexes. It all depends upon the contents of the book :-)

There are both male and female authors whose work I don't like, as well as male and female authors whose work I love... But in all honesty, there seem to be slightly more male authors on my 'read' list though.


message 3: by Paul (new)

Paul James It makes no difference to me if the author is male or female, a good book is just that.


message 4: by BlaiddDrwg (new)

BlaiddDrwg When I'm finding a new book to read I never think about the author actually. There are loads of books when I don't even remember the author's name (oops). If I like the story - I like it, if not - well, shame. But I have never in my life read a book thinking "oh, this one is written by woman, I should like it more"


message 5: by Aura (new)

Aura The Silkworm is not fairly placed in the male authors list; we all know Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling! And she rocks!


message 6: by Saurabh (new)

Saurabh Hooda You could have used the title as "Gender and Reading" instead of "Sex and Reading"
Or are you in hunt of eyeballs?


message 7: by Alma Q (new)

Alma Q Saurabh wrote: "You could have used the title as "Gender and Reading" instead of "Sex and Reading"
Or are you in hunt of eyeballs?"


I was a little disappointed, too.


message 8: by Ahsan (new)

Ahsan I do like sex.


message 9: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie A. Makes sense to me. I tend to assume I will like a random YA novel more when it's by a woman, and this often holds true. While YA isn't all I read, in any given year, I still end up reading anywhere from 2-4x as many books by women vs. men


message 10: by Carol (new)

Carol I tend to pick a book by the blurb/cover/genre before I even look at the author, let alone the authors sex. But those stats are really interesting!


message 11: by Thebomb (last edited Nov 19, 2014 04:10AM) (new)

Thebomb me too, cover and plot and reviews, that's what matters the most to me, I tend to stick to my own favorite authors, but I appreciate it when I find more male author favorites. as it happens, I kinda wish if my fav authors were equally male and female, the study results are true actually...


message 12: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn There is a long-term trend, this century, towards the feminisation of intellectual life. I'm entirely cool with that, most of my favourite authors are actually women. I'm wondering if I should change my writing name... Frances Penn, anyone? But seriously, this is good stuff, showing some welcoming rebalancing in society. I hope you're going to publish results from the sci-fi section!


message 13: by Lauren (new)

Lauren How were organization authors and books with multiple authors counted?


message 14: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I second the above comment re: The Silkworm.


message 15: by Arnav (new)

Arnav Kacker Why is EVERYTHING these days phrased in gender terms? These very analyses make people think in those terms and thereby calcify those boundaries.


message 16: by Harak Soni (new)

Harak Soni Jain :)


message 17: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Personally it doesn't bother me with what gender the author is, as long as it's a good book I'm happy.


message 18: by Pam (new)

Pam Dunn Good writing is good writing, no matter the gender. Why limit yourself. There is enough sexism in this world without readers adding to it.


message 19: by Pam (new)

Pam Spalding-paterakis I love Patterson Grisham Koontz and other male authors but my favorite genre is written mainly by women.


message 20: by Mikayla (last edited Nov 19, 2014 05:49AM) (new)

Mikayla I like reading from both genders, even though I don't always check who the author even is. Though my two most read authors are male and female.


message 21: by Nitin (new)

Nitin The survey is well organized. However, it doesn't matter what gender the author is. The quality of the book's content is important.


message 22: by Tsubame (new)

Tsubame As far as I am concerned, I never read a book by the author's gender. I like to read books and histories.


message 23: by Niklas (new)

Niklas Pivic Instead of "Men are 2x as likely to write a 500+ page book in 2014", should't we say "Men are 2x as likely to write a 500+ page book and have it published in 2014"?


message 24: by Jacinta (new)

Jacinta Hoare How about some analysis on whether we prefer authors from our own country? For example I generally prefer to read a British or Australian author over an American author which may be a reflection of my background. Just curious.


message 25: by Lola (new)

Lola Karns Fascinating Infographic. I'm surprised that of the 50 most read books published in 2014, for each gender, only 5 of the fifty crossed gender bounds.

It would be interesting to see be reading preferences broken down by genre as well. Do men read more non-fiction than women? What subgenres have the most overlap? How do covers matter in ebook vs. traditional books?
Fun stuff - thank you for sharing.


message 26: by David (new)

David I've been making an effort this year to read more authoresses. But I do freely admit I still prefer authors. Men overall are my favorites.


message 27: by Sheila (new)

Sheila I do like current books. The author's gender has no bearing on what I enjoy. I just enjoy a good book period.


message 28: by Faolan (last edited Nov 19, 2014 06:30AM) (new)

Faolan Jesutin-Torabaaru I've never even considered the author's gender before reading a book. I do understand this study though; women write with a woman's sensitivity, as do men, therefore it makes sense that they would each appeal to people with the same sensitivity as them.

Personally, I have more men than women in my favourite authors; Ray Bradbury, Patrick Ness, Oscar Wilde, Hajime Isayama, Masashi Kishimoto, George RR Martin, Ayano Yamane, Sarah J. Maas, JK Rowling, M. Anjelais, John Green... The books that influence me as a writer and as a person are generally the ones that are to become my favourite books and authors.


message 29: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I honestly don't pay attention to whether an author is male or female. Doesn't even cross my mind.


message 30: by Joanne (new)

Joanne Arnav wrote: "Why is EVERYTHING these days phrased in gender terms? These very analyses make people think in those terms and thereby calcify those boundaries."

Analytics are always necessary to determine functionality. If you do not know who your demographic is, how can you appeal to them?


message 31: by Nicholas (new)

Nicholas Arnav wrote: "Why is EVERYTHING these days phrased in gender terms? These very analyses make people think in those terms and thereby calcify those boundaries."

Ah, the time-honored fallacy of Talking About the Differences Makes Them Worse!


message 32: by Toni Roush (new)

Toni Roush I have always been told I read "guy" books, despite not being one


message 33: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady Jacinta wrote: "How about some analysis on whether we prefer authors from our own country? For example I generally prefer to read a British or Australian author over an American author which may be a reflection my background. Just curious."

Quite right :-)


message 34: by Breanna (new)

Breanna Thank you Elizabeth for this data, reflecting on my reading habits I would say I prefer reading from my own gender. Lately most of my favorite books have been by female authors.


message 35: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn I have always been told I read "guy" books, despite not being one

I's a spectrum, not a dichotomy, Toni :-)


message 36: by Erin (new)

Erin V wow cool to know


message 37: by Val (new)

Val I find it very difficult to read while having sex
(and don't say none of you were thinking that when you saw the heading.


message 38: by Kshitiz (new)

Kshitiz A good book is a good book !


message 39: by Mary (new)

Mary It depends on the book, the story, the writing etc. but not on the gender of the author.
I've read crappy books by men and women as well as I've read great books by men and women.

Most of the times I don't even check the author, I just want the book. Once I want to have other books by this author I probably check his/her wikipedia and find out the gender in passing. Simply because there are sentences that start either with "She" or "He".


message 40: by Levi Amichai (last edited Nov 19, 2014 07:41AM) (new)

Levi Amichai The interpretation of "In the first year of publication men's books have a 50/50 audience, women's books have an 80/20 audience" is NOT "everyone likes their own gender more," it's "women read books by both men and women; men don't read books by women."

Also, I may be a stats nerd, but I really want a confidence interval on those star ratings. I suspect that a 0.1 or 0.2 difference in rating isn't actually significant.


message 41: by sogeekychick (new)

sogeekychick Paul wrote: "It makes no difference to me if the author is male or female, a good book is just that."

well said


message 42: by twelvejan [Alexandria] (last edited Nov 19, 2014 07:52AM) (new)

twelvejan [Alexandria] When I choose a book, the gender of the author is the last thing I'll look at. However, I make an exception with historical fictions. I enjoyed them both but depending on my mood, if I feel like reading ancient HFs with plenty of battle scenes, I would pick the ones written by a man. Men write better gory scenes in my opinion.


message 43: by CJ (new)

CJ Interesting and it just happens to be, for me, not a more perfect time. I wonder if a certain book in a well-loved series is only hated because it is popular. I have been thinking of trying it though the romance genre is not my cup of tea or anything in that matter!

I heard someone say there is an actual story within the pages and though the writer who is female has not really written before her book that became a series I think that is admirable at least.

I have been thinking about it (don't make fun please!) of reading Twilight and putting it in my "Known Literature" shelf. Just not yet though!


message 44: by Noora (new)

Noora This is interesting! I got curious and had a look at the books I've been reading this year. 23 out of the 44 I've read so far have been women (counted Galbraith as a woman despite the alias). So almost a 50/50 divide with slight bias towards women.

Sometimes I can't tell if an author is a woman or a man to start with but it doesn't really matter to me. A good book is a good book regardless of the gender of the person who wrote it.

I often find nationality/original language a bigger indicator of whether or not I'm likely to enjoy a book, actually (I think the language you use shapes how the language is used).


message 45: by Nora (new)

Nora I don't think I give much thought when I'm buying a book to what the gender of the author is, not really. I enjoy books by both sexes as long as they're good!!


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

I read both sexes but will be honest and say I read more female writers then males.


I'm so tired of the people on here making me cry...I'm tired of being painted the bad guy... To be honest, I've never thought about who the author of a book I'm reading was until after I read the book. Because if the book is good, I'll seek out more books they have written, if its bad, I might not make the same effort. I've never even thought about gender playing a part in which books I've read. I mean, my favorite authors are tied between J.K Rowling and Tolkien, a guy and girl. But I've never seen it that way so I'm surprised by this.


Erin (Paperbackstash) *Proud Book Hoarder* Interesting infographic - I love these studies for some reason. Thanks for digging this up again, Goodreads, hope to see more.

Personally I don't pay attention to the author's gender when picking a book, at least not consciously. But my favorite genre, Urban fantasy, is mainly women writers, and when I read romance, most of those are women writers. So it can even out.


Erin (Paperbackstash) *Proud Book Hoarder* Levi wrote: "Also, I may be a stats nerd, but I really want a confidence interval on those star ratings. I suspect that a 0.1 or 0.2 difference in rating isn't actually significant.

I agree the different was minimal, but even that is interesting to see IMO


message 50: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I honestly don't pay any attention to the author's gender when picking out a book but it would be interesting to run the same type of stats on one of my own bookshelves to see how typical I am.

Love the whole infographic idea by the way!


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