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By The Numbers

April 30, 2006

When Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins asked hundreds of British female academics, teachers, writers, publishers and literature students what book had changed their lives, many respondents wondered whether there would be a male version of the survey as well. Jardine and Watkins complied: The results were fascinating in their own right, and more intriguing when juxtaposed with the findings for women. Not only did men and women find different books to be meaningful, but they approached reading in divergent ways.


Men's Fiction

Top Five

1. "The Outsider,"

Albert Camus

2. "Catcher in the Rye,"

J.D. Salinger

3. "Slaughterhouse Five,"

Kurt Vonnegut

4. (tie)

"One Hundred Years of Solitude,"

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"The Hobbit,"

J.R.R. Tolkien

5. "Catch-22,"

Joseph Heller

Women's Fiction

Top Five

1. "Jane Eyre,"

Charlotte Bronte

2. "Wuthering Heights,"

Emily Bronte

3. "The Handmaid's Tale,"

Margaret Atwood

4. "Middlemarch,"

George Eliot

5. (tie)

"Pride and Prejudice,"

Jane Austen


Toni Morrison

Other findings:

* No male authors made the women's top five, and no female authors made the men's top five.

* Only four books made both top 20 lists.

* Six male authors broke the women's top 20, but only one book by a female author made the men's top 20: "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.

* Older men were more likely to cite female authors as influential.

* Men were most likely to have read their formative books as adolescents.

* Women were more likely to read books to cope with difficult times.

* Men were more likely to cite particular authors as "mentors," particularly, among these British residents, George Orwell.

* Women liked shared, hand-me-down books; men liked new books and hardbacks.

* Women had a more diverse list of favorites -- 400 women named 200 books.

* Men answered the question of what book marked a watershed moment more reluctantly than women.

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