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Why don't men read novels?

Read Streeter Patrick Lackey, a former newspaper grunt who hasn't lost the journalist's curiosity, e-mails: "A [Washington] Post book review the other day said that only 20 percent of novel readers are men. Have you heard that?"

Patrick was referring to Ron Charles' review of The Signal, in which he proposed building a memorial for the novel-for-men. An excerpt: "Chuck Palahniuk and his Pygmy vibrator gags notwithstanding, polls suggest that only 20 percent of fiction readers are male. Ian McEwan warned in the Guardian that 'when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.' " Charles elaborated on a Post blog, stating that men have dropped novels (if they ever held them to begin with) for narrative nonfiction such as The Perfect Storm and Into Thin Air.

I'm an exception to the rule. I flip between novels and nonfiction -- right now, I'm reading the novel House of Leaves and a nonfiction golf book called The Match. But I find that in conversations with friends, women are usually flush with recommendations about novels, while men usually talk about books relating to a) business, b) sports and c) the business of sports.

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Here's the question: What do men want? They must be looking for something different from books. Practical knowledge? A sense of accomplishment? Vicarious adventure?

Maybe it's time to make a statement, and give novels for Father's Day. Some new releases that look promising: Between Assassinations by Aravind Adiga, the author of White Tiger; Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard; and My Father's Tears by John Updike. (If you want to play it safe, there's always Satchel, a biography of Satchel Paige by Larry Tye.)

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To help achieve our lofty goal, I'll pledge to give my dad a novel this year. (I can't say which one -- don't want to spoil the surprise.)

I'll also give away one of the novels noted above to a Read Street reader. Just leave a comment with your take on this issue -- or another recommended novel for guys -- and I'll choose a lucky winner.

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