Jason Pinter had a post on Huffington Post Why Men Don’t Read bemoaning the difficulty of publishing books for men. (*) He pointed out how the industry is dominated by women, that women read and buy more books and that if only publishers would pay attention to men, more men would read because there would be more books for men to read.
While I have some sympathy for his position, I admit it’s tepid. For how many centuries has publishing aimed itself at male tastes and denigrated the female? Since the beginning. Woman have it all over you in terms of oppression, misrepresentation and being left out. The proverbial shoe is on the other foot and I have to say, I just don’t feel too sorry for you men. Sorry.
The fact is, women cross-read. We read ALL genres, including the ones written by and for men. Men, for the most part, don’t seem to do this, and it’s not for any good reason that I can see. Well, I take that back, there is a good reason, it just has nothing to do with literary merit. I think in the US the male position is far more rigid (giggling, sorry!) than the female. A woman can read Lee Child and no one will question her femininity for doing so. But a man who reads, say, Loretta Chase? His masculinity would be called into question. He must be gay or something, right? And really, maybe we should spend a minute thinking about that. What is it about male culture that makes that such a threat? Women are a bigger market because gender roles don’t limit our reading in the way they do a man’s reading. There’s your problem, Mr. Pinter.
Do you know how many years I suffered through SciFi and Fantasy novels where the women characters were nothing but a male fantasy with absolutely no relation to what real women are like? That’s if there were women at all. How about the John D. MacDonald’s lovely Travis McGee series, where all the women are whores or die? I LOVED those books, but don’t think I didn’t notice what happened to the women. There are entire novels in which there are no women at all, and you can name your genre on that one.
I grew up devouring SciFi and Fantasy and feeling so sad and more than a little frustrated that the women mattered so little. And now, thank God, that’s changed. There are finally, finally writers, male and female, who write about women in a way that doesn’t have them there for sex or service only. Thank you John Scalzi and Jim Butcher and Lois McMaster Bujold to name only three.
Anyway, on Twitter, we got to wondering what romances a man could cross-read and really enjoy. The answer, for any given individual, is going to vary, of course. The very question is fascinating to me in that it is, itself, rife with stereotype and, possibly, sexism. Is it true that woman enjoy the HEA (happy ever after) of Romance while men do not? What ARE the gendered patterns of reading and are they rooted in biology or is it a cultural construction? All very interesting questions.
For me, the first two authors to cross my mind were Meljean Brook and Ann Aguirre. Both those authors write stories I think a lot of men would enjoy. Aguirre may not always be straight romance, but there are very strong romantic elements. Brook is total cross-over material and I’ve been personally thrilled to see her covers become less Romancy and more Urban Fantasy-ish.
So, here are some of the recommendations the Twitterverse has made – IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER because I’m too lazy to alphabetize the list:
- Meljean Brook Meljean’s Guardian series rocks. I think a lot of men would love this richly populated world.
- Ann Aguirre. Her Sarantha Jax series is great. I’ve loved the Skin series, and then there’s the Corinne Solomon series, too. I suspect since many of her books don’t say Romance on the spine, she already has cross-over.
- Karen Rose I’m a big fan of Karen Rose. She’s a great writer and her characters are fully realized on the page. Her books tend to feature serial killer, psychotic villains with, typically, a woman in jeopardy. Lots of action and detail.
- Anne Stuart Several people recommended Stuart. I confess, she’s in my TBR so I can’t make a personal recommendation. I have the Black Ice series on my iPhone and will be getting to it soon, though.
- Allison Brennan Like Karen Rose, she does very detailed, action oriented woman in jeopardy, police-oriented books. Definitely recommend.
- J.R. Ward I almost hesitate to recommend Ward for a guy and yet . . . There is something cracktastic about her books and, in the name of science, I would be interested in knowing if men would share the addiction. Any male readers out there willing to sacrifice themselves in the name of science? Leave a comment and I’ll see about sending some intrepid man a Black Dagger Brotherhood book.
- Diana Gabaldon Gabaldon is another author I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I’m afraid I’ll be sucked into the world when I should be writing my own darn books. But several bookstore and library people said there are a lot of men reading her. She is, of course, not marketed as Romance. Which may explain the male readers.
- Suzanne Brockmann – Her Troubleshooters series is awesome. I get annoyed that it’s so hard to figure out which are reissues of her old Harlequins and which are actual Troubleshooters, but yeah. Lots of great military action.
- Colleen Thompson’s Romantic Suspense. Someone recommended her. I haven’t read her RS yet so I can’t comment much.
- Earlier Iris Johansen I’ve read a few of her early books too.
- Barry Eisler Technically, of course, Eisler is not marketed as Romance, but there are very strong Romantic elements in his books so I completely agree that he’s a good choice for a male reader looking to see what’s on the other side.
- Welcome to Temptation, Don’t Look Down or Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie — I completely agree with the recommendation for Agnes and the Hitman. I loved that Crusie/Bob Mayer book. I mean to pick up and read the others. Crusie is just a really good writer. Even her straight romances are just darn good reading.
- Larissa Ione Her name got mentioned a couple of times, too. Def. agree with this recommendation.
I’ll probably update this if more recommendations come in. In the meantime, who else would you add? What do you think in general? Are you a guy? Why do you read or not read Romance? Want a BDB book to try out?
* Read the comments to Pinters article. There’s one guy who says men are too busy with their jobs to read, and even manages to imply that women are not. OMG. Really? Buddy, women are working full time and then coming home and working even more, doing the majority of the work of maintaining a family and a home. Trust me, the average woman has WAY more demands on her time than the average men. This is just not reason men don’t read.