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Men's books, women's books. (1 Viewer)

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I recently finished "The keeper of lost things" by Ruth Hogan and was discussing it with the missus who works at the library when she said it was a 'women's book' and I was unusual in that I read a number of books by women, 'But you are quite 'Womanly' in some ways'. It surprised me, but she assures me that most men mostly read books by men, and quite a few exclusively so. TBH it had never occurred to me to look at the sex of an author, and when I think back to my early reading I worked my way through Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh et al avidly age about eleven or twelve when I finished with 'Children's' books. How about you? Do you differentiate between men's and women's books?
 

bdcharles

Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9
Staff member
Media Manager
I think I read more books by (and often, featuring as MCs) women now than I did as a young'un. Back then it was all Stephen King and Dean Koontz and HG Wells and Tolkien and Poe. I think I've just expanded my reading repertoire, particularly as I dig into the fantasy canon, where there are loads of female writers/characters, so it sort of goes with the territory. I read some Robert Ludlum and Andy McNab and - they were okay, not mega-memorable, but they passed the time. It's never really bothered me what gender the author is. I think, for the longest time, when I was really young, I thought possibly all authors were female. Male authors seemed quite a new thing.

One of the things I like about a lot of female authors is the unflinching attention to detail on character. You get the sense that every little internal personal oddity, no matter how cringey and uncomfortable, has been factored in. I like it; those pariahdom-inducing properties that I might have assumed only I possessed (I'd certainly never heard anyone else talk about them) suddenly found a soulmate on the page. That for me is a great hook. Ah!, I'd say. Here's someone that feels as I do. By contrast, I read Kane and Abel by disgraced Tory peer Jeffrey Archer a few weeks ago, and while I enjoyed it, I kid you not, the entire thing is tell, and it's all rather cliche-ridden as regards the elements of the story. I mean I know it was in the 80's or whenever, but for fuck's sake, Jane Eyre was 100+ years before that and the personalities are far more relatable, far less cardboard cut out. But these are of course just two examples in many. In fairness, one of the things I always enjoyed about King is his similar approach to character.
 

Joker

Senior Member
Checks Kindle.

Every single book I've read in the last year was written by a man.


Huh.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I am a (straight) man and read probably more books by women. It's not a conscious thing and I do read both fairly evenly, but it's probably 60% female to 40% male, something like that.

I think genre has a lot to do with it. I read all kinds of things but given a free choice would tend to gravitate toward psychological thrillers and crime/mystery stuff and, within that, have a particular interest in domestic fiction that deals with shitty relationships and family secrets (think Gillian Flynn, Claire McGowan, Paula Hawkins) more than more procedural stuff. Obviously these are written by both men and women but, judging by a brief Amazon scan, do seem quite female dominated these days...so maybe that's why. No doubt if I read mainly science fiction or fantasy it would be mostly men as those are (still) male dominated.

To answer the question, I don't differentiate much between women and mens books but 'womens fiction' exists and there are most definitely certain books on the extremes that are targeted towards gender and it's probably reasonable for people to refer to those as [gender] books.

Let's be real, a book like the below is definitely written for women. There are quite a lot of books in this 'genre' -- entire racks at the bookstore, in fact. So, if we're talking this kind of stuff I think it's a legitimate observation. I still would read this stuff, because it's good to expose oneself to different high quality genres (it says USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR so I assume its not trash) but I wouldn't be offended if I got a sideways glance or two.

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Kyle R

WF Veterans
I tend to like writers with an introspective style. So I probably read more female authors than male.

But, honestly, author gender doesn't really concern me. As long as I dig the writing, I'll read it. :encouragement:
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
Let's be real, a book like the below is definitely written for women.

Or gay men.

Literature used to exceedingly male-dominated, so more of what I read or used to read was written by men (Poe, Lovecraft, Stoker, etc.). After that I found authors like Mary Freeman, Charlotte Gilman, Kate Chopin (who I'm not a huge fan of).

It seems female authors tend to cast a more critical eye on society on average. (I'm a biased woman, but whatever.)

One thing female writers have going for them is that women can write men and women at least decently, while men sometimes fail at writing women. The barrier to understanding is much more one-sided than men realize.

Nowadays I don't know if it makes as much of a difference. I still tend to vibe with women authors a little bit more than with male authors, as a whole.

Sometimes I work on stuff that's ​aggressively female (that doesn't mean "thirsting over men in heterosexual fashion" btw) and sometimes I don't.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Or gay men.

Well sure, but there are a lot fewer gay men around than women!

It seems female authors tend to cast a more critical eye on society on average. (I'm a biased woman, but whatever.)

I think this is where we get into problems of generalizations.

I don't know what 'female authors tend to cast a more critical eye on society on average' means because...what does it mean? Society how? If we're talking books of social commentary, I would say those are very much of interest to male authors. Of course, it depends a lot of what is being criticized. Would something like "The Handmaid's Tale" have come from a male author? I doubt it, because it is very much concerned with female-centered issues. Would something like "Lord Of The Flies" have come from a female author? Possibly, but since it's about a group of boys it certainly feels more likely to have been written by a male and it certainly concerns male issues prevalently.

One thing female writers have going for them is that women can write men and women at least decently, while men sometimes fail at writing women. The barrier to understanding is much more one-sided than men realize.

I disagree that women are consistently able to write men decently. I think men and women tend to fail at writing the opposite sex at broadly similar rates, it just happens that men writing women can often seem more glaringly ridiculous or obnoxious because men tend to be more audacious in their sexism. Bad female depictions of men exist, they are just less 'meme-able'.

I'm not sure what you mean by the barrier to understanding being one-sided. Are you saying you think women are better equipped to understand men than vice-versa?
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. At least as long as society stays the way it is.

What does women understanding men have to do with society, though? Like, how does that work? Can you give an example of something about men that women have a unique insight into because of 'society'?

I don't dismiss the existence of gender differences at all, I'm just not sure how they provide the insight. I can see that social inequality allows women a special insight into the way other women might think...but not men.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I don't pay much attention to the gender of the author - the story line attracts me initially, after that, I'll read a bit to check the writing quality and see how the characters are handled - if it's good, I'll read on. I've enjoyed books by both sexes. Pretty much, my favored authors are split evenly between male and female.

Occasionally though, a female author will write a male MC completely, horribly, terribly wrong. When that happens, I'm done with that author for good. I'm sure there are women that have encountered the same issue with male authors writing a female MC. That's a whole other thread though.

Male & female readers are probably drawn to different genre's. I have no statistics to back it up, but from what I've seen, more females are drawn to romance novels, while males read more military history books. How many women have read Pressfield's Gates of Fire, Tides of War, or The Virtues of War?
 

Joker

Senior Member
I don't pay much attention to the gender of the author - the story line attracts me initially, after that, I'll read a bit to check the writing quality and see how the characters are handled - if it's good, I'll read on. I've enjoyed books by both sexes. Pretty much, my favored authors are split evenly between male and female.

Occasionally though, a female author will write a male MC completely, horribly, terribly wrong. When that happens, I'm done with that author for good. I'm sure there are women that have encountered the same issue with male authors writing a female MC. That's a whole other thread though.

Male & female readers are probably drawn to different genre's. I have no statistics to back it up, but from what I've seen, more females are drawn to romance novels, while males read more military history books. How many women have read Pressfield's Gates of Fire, Tides of War, or The Virtues of War?

I don't think it's so much the violence - most of the women I know aren't any more squeamish than the men - so much as military and historical works are more about concepts rather than people. Women are more people and relationship focused while men care about abstract things.
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
Usually, I read the plot, if I like it, I buy the book and read it.
I have always chosen books like this.


The problem is another, in my opinion.
There is a strong prejudice, unfortunately towards both.
If a woman writes a war book, she will be criticized.
If the same book is sold under the author's name " Man" the book is a masterpiece.


I don't make any difference, I read the plot, if I like it I read it, regardless of the genre.
 

Bayview

WF Veterans
I think a lot of the time the stereotypical "male" books have, you guessed it, male main characters, while the stereotypical "female" books have female main characters. I think I'd quite like to read a war book or a spy thriller or whatever with a female MC, but I'm not sure I've ever encountered one.

So we may be working harder than we need to in order to match up literary characteristics with gender stereotypes. Maybe a lot of people just like reading books about people of the same gender as themselves.
 

TheManx

Senior Member
Some of my favorite authors -- E. Annie Proulx, Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, Alice Munro, Amy Hempel, Jennifer Egan, Dorothy Allison, Eudora Welty -- and I assure, you -- since we're clarifying -- I am a very manly man, with a beard and a tool room and everything. :)
 
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Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
What does women understanding men have to do with society, though? Like, how does that work? Can you give an example of something about men that women have a unique insight into because of 'society'?

I don't dismiss the existence of gender differences at all, I'm just not sure how they provide the insight. I can see that social inequality allows women a special insight into the way other women might think...but not men.

In an unequal relationship there will be those who do not need to understand the others, they simply require them to do their duties, and those who need to understand because you don't want to piss off a superior. Male female relationships have moved away from this quite a bit, with two buts. We haven't moved as far as some think, things are just a bit more covert in many cases, and there is an inherited hangover of attitude. If your dad provided your mum with leadership right through your childhood you may be an adult now, but ... If your mum almost never took things head on but tried to manipulate your dad outside his awareness it don't mean you were unaware of it ...
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I think I'd quite like to read a war book or a spy thriller or whatever with a female MC, but I'm not sure I've ever encountered one.

Not sure what we're classifying as 'war books' but I've come across quite a lot of books recently set during wars with female protagonists and not necessarily in traditional female roles. It seems like something of a trend.

As far as what I have read: The Abolitionist's Daughter by Diane McPhail is a good book about the American Civil War from a female perspective. The Orphan's Tale is a recent-ish bestseller set during world war two with a female MC, though obviously neither of these is 'from the battlefield' so to speak. Orphan's Tale I found to be especially memorable.

I don't really read spy thrillers at all, but a google search reveals they do exist. https://www.toledolibrary.org/blog/15-intriguing-spy-novels-written-by-women-featuring-female-spies

In an unequal relationship there will be those who do not need to understand the others, they simply require them to do their duties, and those who need to understand because you don't want to piss off a superior. Male female relationships have moved away from this quite a bit, with two buts. We haven't moved as far as some think, things are just a bit more covert in many cases, and there is an inherited hangover of attitude. If your dad provided your mum with leadership right through your childhood you may be an adult now, but ... If your mum almost never took things head on but tried to manipulate your dad outside his awareness it don't mean you were unaware of it ...

I don't disagree with the premise, but just because one person is ignorant of the other doesn't mean that the other is any more insightful of them.

I don't understand Henry Kissinger, but my lack of understanding of Henry Kissinger doesn't make Henry Kissinger any more understanding of me -- or anyone else?

I think a lot of the time we get into this trap of ascribing excessive expertise or virtue or both to the oppressed party. I see this kind of thing a lot these days and as sympathetic as I am to the emotional aspects, it seems like overcompensation. The fact (most) men are extremely ignorant of women doesn't mean that women understand men. I'm sure there are women who have had to evolve a certain degree of reading men to get by in a 'man's world' (especially in the context of domestic abuse) but it seems wrong to generalize on that maybe?
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
What does women understanding men have to do with society, though? Like, how does that work? Can you give an example of something about men that women have a unique insight into because of 'society'?

I don't dismiss the existence of gender differences at all, I'm just not sure how they provide the insight. I can see that social inequality allows women a special insight into the way other women might think...but not men.

It may not be that way any longer, but I would say that in the past, understanding men was part of a women's "job" and she could do well in life the more she understood or knew about the men in her life. For so long women were encouraged from the cradle, practically, to pay attention to and center their world around the men in their lives. I was married to a man who was the oldest of six children. The next three after him were girls, and they would often tell me horror stories of their mother insisting that they clean their older brother's bedroom on a weekly basis. He had to do nothing. Old food, dirty laundry, smelly things - oh the drama! :) But this was how an older brother was treated in that family, which means my mother-in-law grew up thinking this was the way a brother should be treated, and so she trained her girls. Society saw this as appropriate behavior in those days. Society saw nothing wrong with teaching women to do everything they could to make life more pleasant for men.

Men, for their part, just labeled us "unfathomable," a mystery and so didn't bother discovering more about us.

Women had no interest in what other females might think, but because they were women they knew anyway. It might have been that look of knowledge between two women that began the first women's rights movement.

So today, we have sitcoms with single moms who have no need or desire to cowtow to men in any way, shape or form. They rebel against male bosses, teachers in school, and insist their daughters disregard personal wants of the men in their lives, to even hold them in disdain. Their idea of equality means the men in their lives better "man up" when they are having a bad day. They are a selfish lot. :)

(I say that with great affection for all of my grandgirls)
 

Matchu

Senior Member
My wife doesn't even read any longer, mainly sucking Netflix crap in her kitchen.

Walk into scene for refill; two twenty-somethings simulate intercourse on the screen before catching their murderer. Man-shamed at this juncture: 'porn, porn, porn!' is my dance of victory. I return to my attic, watching the numbers on my shortwave radio, an endless looping of numbers 1-9, mesmerising for mankind.

Between us, I at least, read about 5000 words a week of war violence and politics to maintain the tradition of reading as an art form pursuit.
 
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