NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Are There "Chick" Books and "Guy" Books?

I would like to share this exchange from the comments in a previous post, because I would love to hear all your thoughts on the topic! I mentioned that I believe myself to be a bit of a literary tomboy. I'm not much of a romantic and I was born with a severe lack of maternal instinct, so there are a lot of books out there that many women I know just adore, but they don't appeal to me at all. Because of this and the fact that I think of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice as a "girl book", I was worried that I may not see in it what so many other women see and love. This prompted the following comment from Damned Conjuror:

I don't think it's specifically a female book, do books have genders? I suppose that women are more inclined to enjoy an Austen book but I don't think that dictates whether it's for women or men. I don't know really, I'm just thinking that we do assign genders to books albeit being arbitrary e.g. a wartime action novel would be for males and a book about horses would be for females. Hmmm.

That was a great comment! It made me stop and think about how I do tend to label books. Not all of them, but I'm definitely guilty of the practice. Here was my reply:

I meant the "'girl' book" comment only as a generalization. No, I don't think books are really "girl" or "boy" books specifically, but there are some that seem to my mind to be more appealing or marketed to one gender than the other. For me, P&P falls into that category. And I understand that I'm making this judgment totally arbitrarily. :-) Weirdly, I would be surprised to see a guy reading P&P, but not a woman reading, for example, Patrick O'Brien's "Master & Commander". I think that just speaks to my own prejudice of believing that women are more open minded about crossing those imaginary lines than men are.

I want to open up this discussion to all of you. Are there books out there you tend to think of as "girl" books or "guy" books? And if so, do you tend to "cross the line"? Are you surprised to see a guy reading what you would think of as "chick lit"? How about the other way around?

And I'd like to thank Damned Conjuror for providing some fun food for thought on a Friday morning! I was near to comatose before I started thinking about this. :-)


Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

There are some books that strike me a "guy" books - LONE SURVIVOR comes to mind (my husband and 5 other men we know loved it, but I couldn't bring myself to read it, and have yet to find a woman who has). In general books about young families, moms dealing with kids/jobs/life, strike me as "girl" books - I have never met a guy who has (admitted that he) read them.

On the other hand, there are certain topics that strike me as more "guy" topic that I love to read about. Shackelton's Antarctic Expedition comes to mind - I'm enthralled with books about this, but I don't know (m)any other women who are.

Of course I think anyone can read anything they want to, but as you said in your post, some books are marketed to one gender over the other, and some just seem "meant" for one gender or the other.

That's my opinion at least ...

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

(wow, that was a REALLY long comment - sorry!)

Jem said...

Yes, I think some books are sometimes marketed more toward either male or female because there are some hobbies and topics that generally appeal to one gender or the other. But there are many books that are for either or.

I recently reviewed a book that I said was the male equivalent of chic lit. Perhaps I should have thought about it more before I 'labeled' it that way. Here is the link if anyone is curious:

I guess that we all know our own taste and shouldn't be embarrassed to cross over if we want to! I think that I would be excited to see a man reading Austen and interested to see if he enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

There are definately some books which appeal to one sex more than the other. I do tend to cross that line quite often, as I like to know what men are thinking!

I was interested to read Jemima's comment about the male version of chick lit - I recently reviewed a book I thought was chick lit from a male perspective: The Slap

If you want to know what men are really thinking then you should read this book - but be aware that they think about sex a lot!

bermudaonion said...

I do think there are books that interest one sex more than the other, but that doesn't mean they're meant exclusively for that sex. I've been told that I don't like girly books but read men's books.

Ana S. said...

Personally, I don't think there are as many differences between what men and women like/think/feel as society leads us to believe. The differences that do exist are there because we are taught from an early age that some things are more appropriate for one gender than the other: romance is for girls, action is for boys. And if it were up to me, we'd do away with all of that :P

So I'm going to say no. I mean, many books obviously are marketed mainly for one gender, but the reasons why that's done and why it's effective in terms of sales is the socialization we all go through. I really don't think women are naturally more inclined to like love stories and men to like adventure, or any other thing, really.

Anonymous said...

Nymeth - exactly.

Gender is distinct from sex, as gender is the cultural meaning assigned through the body's acculturation. So, we can't necessary attribute the values of women or men to their biological point.

We like to categorise "things" because we immediately gain power of it. We can control it. A book about war is for males because culture necessitates it. It doesn't mean people follow this but because this the idea is entrenched in our lives, we have to take a double take.

I don't care what people think of the books I read but, saying that, I would feel very conscious if I were to read a Mills & Boon book. It shouldn't matter but society dictates that those types of books are not for men. Anyway, I might be talking a load of bog water so I'll end it here.

Poppy Q said...

Books about sports always seem to me to be 'guy' books, with the odd exception like Lance Armstrong.

I know lots of women like science fiction, but the section at the local bookstore and library, seem to attract a huge amount of male readers.

I have never seen a bloke reading Jodi Picoult or Elizabeth Berg.

Another interesting thought is that sometimes, if I am taking a book I am going to be reading in public, I am quite conscious of what that book says about me, and I might leave a book I am enjoying but is quite girly or controvesial at home,and pick a more interesting book to slip into my bag.

Julie Q

Anna said...

I don't think I'd ever catch my husband reading "chick lit" but it's not like it would bother me if he did. Seriously though, I think some books are definitely geared toward female readers and vice versa, but that shouldn't stop someone from reading them. This definitely is an interesting topic!

Diary of an Eccentric

Lezlie said...

Heather ~ Long comments are welcome here! I once had a guy friend ask me to pick him out a romance novel for him, because he was curious about what we women were reading in them. He said he thought maybe he could pick up some tips. :-) I gave him Iris Johansen's "The Tiger Prince" and he loved it!

Jemima ~ Marketing is definitely a factor in how some books are perceived. Just look at some of the covers. I don't usually see guys carrying around books with flowers and headless women on them. :-)

Farmlane Books ~ Most of my friends are guys, and I concur. They *do* think about sex *a lot*! Sex and blowing things up.

Bermudaonion ~ I'm not a girly book reader either. I used to read a lot of historical romance novels, but contemporary "chick lit" rarely appeals to me. Now I think the closest I come to that are straight up historicals and some regency romances.

Nymeth ~ The nature or nurture question. I come down more on the side of nurture also. Society instills a lot of weird ideas, especially into boys. It's too bad really.

Damned Conjuror ~ I think you're right on with the control idea. I see a lot of examples of that need just in everyday life, and it makes sense to me that it would extend into entertainment. After all, look at the popularity of things like TiVo. Not the same thing, but related to the control idea.

Poppy Q ~ I hate to admit it, but I also think about what a book I'm reading in public may say about me. I took embarassing pride in toting War & Peace around with me when I was reading that, but those headless-lady-cover books tend to stay on the nightstand for later. :-)

Anna ~ I wouldn't bother me if my husband read chick lit either. He doesn't, but then again, neither do I. :-) I'm having a great time with this topic! I'm so glad so many others are weighing in!


Tasha said...

My comment does not answer your questions, but I just came across the term "dick lit." Have you heard that before?

Lezlie said...

Charley ~ I have. While it makes me laugh and it's a pretty apt description, I'm not comfortable using it in my own writings. I prefer more family-friendly terminology. I do think it's clever though!


Darlene said...

I agree with Nymeth as well. We're taught that girls are girly and boys are tough. Certainly books are marketed towards certain genders for sure but it shouldn't stop someone from picking up a book outside of their comfort zone. I just read a book called Two Years, No Rain that I had made the point of saying was about a man and how I didn't remember reading a book that featured a man and life in a long time if ever. A man would likely enjoy that book yet as a woman I really did as well. I think it's a matter of choice. Whatever appeals the most to you is where your reading loyalties usually lie.

Sheila DeChantal said...

Great discussion.... it is interesting how some of us (me included) have a preconceived idea of books that are gender oriented. I have been surprised when reading a book blog of a man to see when his book choices may be some of what I would consider a girls read...

I have no idea why I would think that way.

I would love to discuss Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, or Little Women, with a man. It would be quite interesting to have the male perspective on these reads as I would think it would be for a guy to get a female perspective on a manly read.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

My own reading crosses just about every gap. With the exception of certain chick-lit. I'm not the type of person that enjoys reading about clothes, or shoes. And I find a lot of the chick-lit stories make it seem that a woman is only as strong/important as the job/boyfriend/stuff she owns. Which depresses me.

What Nymeth said about society teaching us what we should enjoy is very true. I see a lot of parents not allowing their girls to read sci-fi/fantasy as well as parents dissuading boys from reading "girly" books. (I work in a little bookshop)
I've actually seen a woman drag her sobbing 8 year old boy out of the store because she wouldn't let him get a Babysitters Club book! And while walking out she is telling him that it's not right for boys to read those books. I felt like shaking the woman and telling her that if he grows up to never read another book, it's all her fault!!

I'm ranting, but it really makes me sad, angry and disappointed to see potential intellectual harm being done to children because of old-fashioned societal beliefs.

Lezlie said...

Dar ~ I've been seeing quite a few reviews around for that book. I may have to take a closer look!

Sheila ~ I'm surprised when I see that also. We really shouldn't be, but maybe it's just evidence of Nymeth's point! :-) Do you suppose men wonder what women think of "guy" books? That question just crossed my mind.

Joanne ~ That would have bothered me, too. It bothers me in other areas also. I know a guy who pulled his 7-year-old son out of a dance class that the loved to go to. It was okay when they were learning hip-hop dancing, but when he saw they were learning ballet, he yanked him out. Neanderthal.


Teddy Rose said...

I think that there are books that are more geared to women and books that are geared to women.

I won't read chick lit at all. The modern day chick lit is just fluff to me and seems to be more for women who are really into material things and shopping. Not me at all!

I love historical fiction and if there is romance in it I don't mind as long as it portrays the time and place well and has a real plot to it. I won't touch Harliquen romances,etc.

Lezlie said...

Teddy Rose ~ I'm not a contemporary chick lit reader either. Never have been. I've never been much of a contemporary romance reader either. I used to read *tons* of historical romance, but I always preferred the ones that had a much meatier story than just the relationship. That's what brought me to straight up historicals, which is my current favorite genre, even if I haven't been indulging much lately.

I would probably still read historical romances more often if I hadn't overdosed on them so much when I was reviewing them for a local newsletter! :-)


Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Really interesting question, Lezlie. There's chick-lit and then there's dick-lit (sorry for the foul expression) and I'm not sure if those two cross gender or not? How many guys do you see walking around with a copy of Shopaholic? But generally speaking I tend to agree with Conjuror's comments about how arbitrary it can be to pidgeonhole a book based on the topic at hand. Who was that author, though, who said that if women stopped reading the novel would die? I think Ian McEwan?

Lezlie said...

Trish ~ Whoever said it, it's probably true! I don't see guys reading that much, period. Even the customers at the bookstore are mostly women.


Serena said...

though I am late to the party, I think that a lot of this question deals with marketing and socialization. We are trained to think something is "girl" and something else is "boy" but really its all the human condition. Does it matter if its written by a man or woman? Does it matter that the main protagonist is a woman or a man?

I think defining chicklit as chicklit is marketing it to women, rather than to the general reading populace. Ok, maybe guys aren't interested in reading about a woman looking for a husband or shopping for shoes, but some of these books are purely entertaining simply because they are ridiculous...what man doesn't want some mindless entertainment?

That was a long comment...ooops

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ I receiving like long comments! As for men's mindless entertainment via reading, I think they turn to things like John Sandford and Vince Flynn. At least, I hope that's what they turn to them for and not because they think they're getting intellectual! :-)


Serena said...

Lezlie, you are probably right. Now that I know you like long comments, I may jump on my soap box more often. :)

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ If we can't soapbox, where's a girl to soapbox? :-)