Reading historical fiction varies by gender

On Facebook recently, Derek Birksauthor of Rebels And Brothers, a series set during the Wars of the Roses, wondered about differences between men and women in their reading habits and historical fiction preferences. I’ve had a look at the 2013 survey and here’s what I found.

NOTE – I’m reporting here on areas where I think there are statistically significant differences. Read the full report and other selected posts for further information.

Part 2 – favourite authors – can be found here.

Books per year (all books, not just historical fiction)

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Book format preferences

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Proportion of book reading that is historical fiction

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Reasons for reading historical fiction

  • to learn about real people behind the legends: men 26%, women 31%
  • to bring the past to life: men 72%, women 80%
  • because it’s a great story: men 69%, women 60%
  • because it’s a form of time travel: men 33%, women 39%

Within historical fiction, what type of story appeals to you?

Top three for men: fictional characters within a backdrop of great historical events 74%; adventure 66%, stories with a military,naval angle 51%

Top three for women: fictional characters within a backdrop of great historical events 71%; romance 44%; the life of a significant historical figure 40%. For women, two other reasons come close to the 40% figure suggesting that preferences are more varied.

What historical time periods do you read?

Top three for men: 3000 BC to 1000 AD 42%; 6th to 12th centuries 40%; 13th to 16th centuries 36%

Top three for women: 13th to 16th centuries 50%; 18th century 41%; choose widely from all periods 39%

Source of Recommendations

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 5.26.55 PM

Use of Blogs, social media or other online sitesScreen Shot 2014-11-19 at 5.28.55 PMFor favourite historical fiction authors, have a look at an earlier post comparing men and women based on data from the 2013 survey.

You can also check out my 2012 survey report.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book formats from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

14 thoughts on “Reading historical fiction varies by gender”

  1. On visiting a charity shop on holiday recently they had sorted their fiction shelves into books written by men and books written by women. A first! I must do some research into my reading and the gender of the authors. I feel it is about 50/50.

    1. That’s interesting, Andrew, and it would drive me nuts to shop in a store like that. I never look if a book is written by a man or a woman.Although, once when I read a book about Lucrezia Borgia, I did look to see the background of the writer. When I noticed, that he was a script writer, I thought, “That explains why this book is the way it is.”The most important thing to me is if the story looks interesting.

  2. Someday, I hope I will be sufficiently acquainted with my own writing process that I will be able to incorporate useful figures like these into what comes out of the sausage grinder! Thought-provoking post!

  3. The author’s gender doesn’t really matter to me either. I look at the story. Honestly, I typically only read books that have a strong romance plot, but lately have discovered that my tastes are changing. As an example, I used to read more books like “Gone With the Wind” but am currently reading book about Thomas Edison, “Inventing Madness” by J.G. Schwartz http://www.inventingmadness.com/. A year ago I may not have even picked it up. Now I am really hoping they make it into a movie!! So final answer- I pay attention to the story plot, not the gender of the author.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Liz. It would be interesting to consider how readers interests change with time – in my case, I think I look for more complexity in the novels I read than I did some time ago. I suppose in earlier days with small children to consider and a full time job, I only had time for quick reads! For me, the author’s gender is never a consideration as to whether I will read a particular book.

  4. You’re welcome! I think my tastes revolve somewhat around my children getting older as well… I find that as they get older I have more and more time to read than I used to.

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