Ian McEwan once said, 'When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.' This book explains how precious fiction is to contemporary women readers, and how they draw on it to tell the stories of their lives. Female readers are key to the future of fiction and-as parents, teachers, and librarians-the glue for a literate society. Women treasure the chance to read alone, but have also gregariously shared reading experiences and memories with mothers, daughters, grandchildren, and female friends. For so many, reading novels and short stories enables them to escape and to spread their wings intellectually and emotionally. This book, written by an experienced teacher, scholar of women's writing, and literature festival director, draws on over 500 interviews with and questionnaires from women readers and writers. It describes how, where, and when British women read fiction, and examines why stories and writers influence the way female readers understand and shape their own life stories. Taylor explores why women are the main buyers and readers of fiction, members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, and organisers of days out to fictional sites and writers' homes. The book analyses the special appeal and changing readership of the genres of romance, erotica, and crime. It also illuminates the reasons for British women's abiding love of two favourite novels, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Taylor offers a cornucopia of witty and wise women's voices, of both readers themselves and also writers such as Hilary Mantel, Helen Dunmore, Katie Fforde, and Sarah Dunant. The book helps us understand why-in Jackie Kay's words-'our lives are mapped by books.'