She reads, he reads: gender differences and learning through self-help books


  • Brandi Kapell University of Calgary, Canada
  • Scott McLean University of Calgary, Canada



Gender differences, popular culture, self-help reading, informal adult education


Despite considerable scholarly attention given to self-help literature, there has been a lack of research about the experience of self-help reading. In this article, we explore gender differences in self-help reading. We argue that men and women read self-help books for different reasons and with different levels of engagement, and that they experience different outcomes from reading. We provide evidence from in-depth interviews with 89 women and 45 men. Women are more likely to seek out books of their own volition, to engage in learning strategies beyond reading, and to take action as a result of reading. Men are more likely to read books relating to careers, while women are more likely to read books about interpersonal relationships. We argue that these gender differences reflect profound political-economic and cultural changes, and that such changes also help explain the gendered evolution of adult, continuing, and higher education in recent decades.


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How to Cite

Kapell, B., & McLean, S. (2015). She reads, he reads: gender differences and learning through self-help books. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 6(1), 55–72.



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