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March 31, 2008

Men and Books: Why Men Aren't Joiners

Posted by carol
In this post, Andrew McCullough ruminates on why men and book clubs aren't a match made in heaven. He has, however, overcome that stereotype with the 18-member Man Book Club, which celebrated its first anniversary this month. Congrats, Andrew!

There's a reason why book clubs are overwhelmingly populated by women. Men don't want in. They sign up for bowling leagues and rotisserie leagues (sports, not food). They join country clubs and cigar clubs. Whether it's a game of chance or a game of skill, they'll line up with complete unknowns. But most guys head in the other direction if you mention a book club. Especially those run by women.

After careful study, I think I've figured out why men don't join book clubs. The answer goes back to grade school, when men still felt intellectually superior to women. Somewhere around the fifth grade, girls stopped being totally dumb. By the ninth grade, most guys were holding their own in World Civilization and Biology. By senior year, we still had an edge in AP Physics. By college it was Game Over. Women were more articulate, they read more, and they used words like "archetype" and "trope" in conversations about books.

In those early post-college years, it didn't matter that women were smarter. We were willing to discuss books with them because it made us seem caring and sensitive. And it helped that our college reading lists were still fresh in our memories. But, with the passage of time, it got harder to keep up with women. They were more thoughtful, and they weren't afraid to bring emotion into the discussion.

Now that we're all grown up, we gravitate toward the comfort of all-male activities, where we can be mistaken without being inadequate. To venture into a book club filled with women only makes us wonder if we have anything original to say. And if the book is Eat, Pray, Love, let's be honest: we don't. No, it's much easier to stick with fantasy football, even if we're dead wrong about a Brett Favre comeback.

--- Andrew McCullough