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  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.

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I think it may have been me who raised the subject of 'women's books' so I really should contribute here. But I am in bed with a virus so my thoughts are not very clear. All I can say is that there do seem to be some books which some men do not like, and they are probably ones that deal intensely (or even frivolously) with female emotions. Of course the best men (or perhaps I should say men who are interested in what makes women tick) and/or the best-trained readers will not have this problem. And conversely I must say there are books which I am not interested in and which I think of as men's books -- never did manage to read Moby Dick, for example, and have "read" War and Peace twice but never managed to read the war bits.
This is a very vexed question and one that raises all kinds of related issues, of course. I didn't much like Labythinth, by the way.
And what is this lovely painting of a woman reading??????


I spend much of my time defending books as being non-gender-specific... *sigh* I think there are books which are more popular with women or with men, undeniably, but that probably has more to do with marketing and with reading habits than anything else. Well-written books are well-written; poorly written books are poorly writtn. That, I think, is all.

Curzon Tussaud

I've read both these books, and while I did not consider them girly books at all, it would be a surprise to see some man deep in either of them on the Tube. Men's travel reading, if not a newspaper, goes in the pocket and neither of these would fit there. I think that women love a good wallow in a long book; men like to knock it off and get onto the next read, with the glorious exception of Simon S-i-a-B!


The cynic in me would say the 'women's lit' and 'chick lit' labels have been dreamed up by men (and women with problems) in the marketing and sales offices of publishers and bookshops. I'm guessing, but I think women read a lot more fiction than men do. Dismissing anything a woman writes or reads as 'chick lit' is just one more way men hope to snipe at our intellectual superiority. It's a put-down. It's my version of the old Naomi Woolf theory (The Beauty Myth). It could also be because my husband came home late last night and I had to get up at 5.45am to take my son to weight training.


This is an interesting look at reading habits by gender:,,1494932,00.html
There was another one a year or so ago but I can't find my link.


I thought the article was Australian, but couldn't remember when I'd posted the link:

Peter the flautist

OK I'll bite!
I agree entirely with Simon that books are not gender specific. I will take issue with Curzon Tussaud and say "where is your evidence"? I have (sadly) travelled daily for 26 years on tube/bus/train/plane to my various places of work (or other Universities) and I do not think I have ever placed a book in my pocket. Quite often my books are huge and have many hundreds of pages. I have not noticed any particular difference between the size/shape/worthiness of books depending on the sex of the reader. I have never had the desire to "knock-off" a book (either in terms or reading it or stealing it) in order to get on to the next one, and despite my admiration for Simon SIAB I do not think he is the "only exception". I also (and this is not evidence based, but purely personal observation of family and friends) do not agree with Lesley that women read more fiction than men. I do agree with her disparaging comments concerning silly terms such as "chick-lit", but I do not agree that either sex has a general claim to intellectual superiority!

I would be interested to hear more from Harriet Devine, (when she has recovered of course) and other Cornflower readers, as to why female emotions should put off male readers.


Frankly, I don't believe that well-written books are beloved by one gender or another. However, I do believe, cynic that I am, that some less auspicious books are written for monetary gain ... specifically for indolent feminine minds or dull macho minds. I realize this gross generalization will get me in a lot of trouble. But ... just take a look at some of the American bookstores today ...

adele geras

Whatever marketing may say, if a book is good, women's or men's, it generally finds readers of both genders. BUT I think the Labyrinth success (which was so much MORE even than normal was the best selling pbk of last year or whenever)is precisely because it was NOT marketed specifically at women. It had a beautiful but abstract cover with a mazey - type design on it. There was no woman's face anywhere on it, and it was regularly touted as ADVENTURE and a kind of girly follow up to the da Vinci Code. Swords and ladies wielding them: what bloke could resist? So the MEN bought it in droves along with the women, and that, I reckon, accounts for the massively greater sales. I can't speak about it properly as I gave up on page 80 thinking my life was definitely too short for it, but I promise you if all the details of clothes, food, houses etc had been in place, I'd have lasted a lot longer. I am MILDLY tempted by the Sepulchre but only because I like Debussy and Pelleas and Melisande (sorry, can't do accents!) and I'm generally a sucker for Tarot-y things, but I will only attempt it if someone like Cornflower or Harriet D reads it first and tells me it's MILES better than Labyrinth. And even then, only in pbk.
All the TRULY GREAT books are UNISEX...that's what I think, in an unconsidered and not-well- thought-out way! If anyone doesn't like a particular masterpiece of world literature, it's an individual and not a gender-based opinion.


A few years ago, when I was working as a librarian in Southampton, I conducted a survey of male readers. One question asked about their favourite novelists,the choice of authors was predominantly male. I think that male readers do choose male authors, but not exclusivly and it does vary with actual type of novel being read- there are a large number of very successful crime wrtiters, for instance, who are popular with both men and women readers.


While I was being flippant about women's intellectual superiority, and men's resentment of it, there does seem to be evidence that women read more fiction than men do. See, for instance, this article:

Richard Madeley

Hey! I just liked the book. I also enjoyed 'War & Peace' but I don't see people buying that!

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Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.


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