Researchers Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins of the University of London interviewed 500 men, all with some professional connection to literature, and asked them about the novel that most changed their life. This piece of research was actually a follow-up to a similar survey carried out last year, asking women for their seminal novel. Both studies were conducted in conjunction with the Orange Prize.
They found that:
The novel that means most to men is about indifference, alienation and lack of emotional responses. That which means most to women is about deeply held feelings, a struggle to overcome circumstances and passion ...And here's the list of favourites that emerged:
- The Outsider by Albert Camus
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
- Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
- High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
- The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- 1984 by George Orwell
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
- The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
... men do not regard books as a constant companion to their life's journey, as consolers or guides, as women do. They read novels a bit like they read photography manuals. The men's list was all angst and Orwell. Sort of puberty reading.Men did not come up with anywhere like the range of titles that the women did, and did not regard novels as life companions in the same way that women did.
And shock horror: the study also revealed that men between the ages of 20 and 50 generally do not read fiction. (Actually, I think we more or less knew this already.)
Does the survey actually teach us anything useful? There's lively discussion of the issues raised on the Guardian blog.
Anyway, let's chuck the discussion over to the male readers of this blog - what is the most important novel you've ever read? Is it on the list or something different?
Y'know I've really got to scratch my head to think about the answer to this for myself ... there are so many ...
But 1984 would be pretty high up on my list too ...