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Do Men Read Books That Have Been Written By Women?

What Are You Reading Now?

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Edited: Feb 20, 2012, 2:04pm Top

The other day, I told a workmate that I'd watched the film adaptation of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I added that it wasn't as good as the book but, on the whole, wasn't bad.

My workmate seemed a little embarrassed and asked if it was a book that a man would want to read: was it not a little 'girly', (to use his expression)? I replied that it wasn't, but by then my colleague had already made up his mind that The Time Traveler's Wife was chick lit because it had been written by a woman.

This way of thinking isn't exclusive to men: a woman whose opinion I value once expressed surprise that I was reading a novel by Jane Austen. She told me that she didn't think that men read that kind of book.

I've just finished a book by Barbara Pym that I really enjoyed. Is it so unusual for a man to read a book written by a woman?

Feb 20, 2012, 2:14pm Top

Not at all unusual, in my experience. I used to run bookstores. People generally look for books based on factors other than that.

Should people look for books based on factors other than that? Absolutely.

Feb 20, 2012, 3:50pm Top

Why shouldn't you read female authors, over the last 16 years i have kept a record of my reading and in that time i have read books by 254 authors of which 100 are female, go for it.

Feb 20, 2012, 5:32pm Top

It's a discussion as old as the hills - remember Northanger Abbey where the sensitive Henry Tilney admits to enjoying novels like Udolpho (= books by women) but the silly John Thorpe feels he has to pretend he doesn't?

Feb 20, 2012, 10:51pm Top

Well, if it's true, then it must start early. I understand the reason that J.K. Rowling went with her initials when she published Harry Potter is because it was thought that boys wouldn't read a book if they knew a woman had written it. I don't know if the publishers actually had any data to back this up (or if there is any data on this--interesting question), or if this is just what they believed.

Feb 21, 2012, 1:42am Top

These are the same people that say that I should not read books about military or war history or spy novels simply because I am a woman. Or that I must like chick lit and/or romances because I am a woman (I rarely read either...)

People have different ideas - some of them picked up independently; some of them drilled into them from parents/school/society. I tend to read what I like - and if someone does not like it, oh well.

Feb 21, 2012, 4:49am Top

of course. I occasionally don't even know the gender of the author I'm reading. Especially one who only goes by initals for instance. However it must be said that I'm unlikely to read chick-lit whether it was written by a woman or a man.

These sorts of things are failry easy to test, and I think it has been done although I can't be bothered to hunt google for the data. Given a pile of extracts most people perform no better than chance at discerning whether the author was male or female.

Feb 21, 2012, 5:42am Top

>6 AnnieMod: ...and if someone does not like it, oh well.

Exactly. When you're 12 or 14, failing to conform to some stupid idea about gender-appropriate behaviour might have disastrous consequences (reading a book by a woman author is probably seen by teenage boys as the first step on the road to wearing make-up, dressing in sequins and giving up rugby...), but as adults most of us don't have to bother with the impression our choice of reading makes on other people.

Feb 21, 2012, 7:09am Top

i read the heart is a lonely hunter thinking that carson was a man's name, when i found out she was a lady i was so impressed i read man of jasmine which i'd bought by mistake a while before thinking that unica was a man's name also. i think that the carson book was probably a fluke.

Feb 21, 2012, 7:38am Top

Sure men do but not as much as women read books that have been written by men.

When I was young I resisted reading Willa Cather on the assumption that she was probably "for girls." I was that dumb. But now she's one of my favorite writers.

Feb 21, 2012, 5:16pm Top

My C has read books by women but not many. It's not that he thinks women can't write, it's because, if the book is written from a woman's point of view, he feels uncomfortable being inside a woman's head. His mother raised him to think women are mysterious magical beings, to some degree, and "women's country" is not a place he should intrude upon.

Or something like that. I haven't tried to change that attitude because it comes with a kind of respect that I like.

Feb 21, 2012, 7:57pm Top

I can't imagine being gender-centric, but then I probably read more books written by men than women (though I've never checked). It does explain why J. K. Rowling's original publisher insisted she use initials and not her first name, Jane.

Edited: Mar 12, 2012, 7:35pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Feb 26, 2012, 6:42pm Top

I'm hoping that as my boys grow up they'll continue to read based on the what the book's supposed to be about and not the gender of the author or the main character.

I would really like to see what "they" know about boys (and men) reading or not reading books by women or books that feature a female lead. For the kids' books, I notice that my boys have always liked adventure and fantasy and mystery and there are some newer stories and series for kids that "star" girls and my boys don't care - they not only read and enjoy the books, if a book is a part of a series, they'll read them all. I've wondered if we have more well-written stories starring girls available now than when I was growing up in the '70s and if there are more boys like mine who accept that heck, yeah, that girl can solve the mystery or save the world or whatever. So, I guess I'm wondering if there's been a shift in what's available to read and what the boys will pick up as our society has changed.

My husband reads books by women and starring women. Just to sort of answer the question that was asked. :=)


Feb 27, 2012, 12:31pm Top

#14 harlequin...I grew up in the 70s also (I'm female) and I wonder if parents today make more of an effort to at least encourage kids (or maybe boys, more specifically) to read more widely. Maybe starting them early reading books with girl protagonists, so the idea isn't so "icky" for them when they're a little older? I think you're right also that more is being written where girls actually get to do interesting things, instead of boys having all the fun.

Feb 27, 2012, 12:50pm Top

>15 AlaMich:

Girl protagonists and female authors are two very different things though.

Feb 27, 2012, 1:06pm Top

According to my profile stats, I've read 90% male authors. It doesn't bother me. I do try to stay away from books that are written by women, featuring all women, written for other women. The Help comes to mind. Also, someone like Jane Austen seems to be more for women (every book ends in marriage to a wealthy man). But generally gender is not an issue for me if it is a good book.

Although I've read mostly male authors, I admire many female authors, such as Will Cather, Annie Dillard, Laura Hillenbrand, Dorothy Sayers, Emily Dickinson, and Flannery O'Connor. I think these are authors who can be enjoyed by men or women. I hope soon to start reading Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael series.

Feb 27, 2012, 1:46pm Top

#16 anniemod...You're right; I think was unconsciously assuming that if the protagonist was female, the author would be also. Which of course isn't always the case, but probably is the case the majority of the time.

Feb 27, 2012, 1:56pm Top

>18 AlaMich:

Not as many as one will presume. I think that part of the reason why men do not read female authors is exactly this - they presume the books are about women. :)

>17 barney67:
Why everyone brings up Austen when we start talking about that? :) A lot of the people that read her do not read her because of how it ends (the romances reading crowd usually do not like her) but because she builds a very good picture of the world. Sometimes the plot is not the most important thing :) Just saying.

Feb 27, 2012, 2:02pm Top

I might try Austen again someday. I have enjoyed the movies, Persuasion especially.

My sister wrote her college thesis on Austen, so I sort of grew up with the name (and her books) around our house.

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