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Via ".@eenderinwales"

Hello there. Hope you’re feeling well today.One of the great advantages of Twitter is the way it will lead you to things that even the normal internet would not. Yesterday, quite randomly it led me to a post by the writer David Hayden with regard to men and their reading choices. It suggested that male readers would normally see writing as the canon with women hardly getting a look in.

The article is here

It referred to readers surveys which stated that male readers almost exclusively and deliberately read fictional books by other men and not women. This surprised me. I personally wonder how these surveys were phrased. Most male readers I’m aware of don’t discriminate by gender at least not as consciously as Mr Hayden’s article implied. That said, as I’ve mentioned in this blog in the past, there have been some female writers who I have avoided specifically because the cover and the blurb suggests not that it will be too female, but rather too gushingly romantic, too girly or too delicate for my male DNA.

As readers of this blog will also know I have tried to go beyond the covers recently (too varying degrees of success as I will explain later) but I don’t blame myself for not looking at books that were not designed to attract me the male reader.

These covers need to be discussed individually. There were four particular types:

a) The “Mills and Boon” Cover: We are all aware of that cover that suggests whirlwind romance through a [insert historical period here]. Avoided Georgette Heyer (only read her for the first time a couple of years and Norah Lofts (I’ve a book of hers have not got round to reading yet).

b) The Chick Lit Cover: Bright Colours, Swirly lettering, Cartoon figures. They were literary warning lights for men to avoid. But if circumstances were different, I wouldn’t have realised that (as I’ve explained in previous posts) Marian Keyes is a far more important writer than her covers would suggest.

c) The Chocolate Box Cover: Which interestingly I have an example in one of the two books I’m reading at the moment.

Santa Montefiore – The Beekeeper’s Daughter

(The other book I’m reading incidentally is The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton)

So you’re looking at that cover and would instantly see a sweeping romance style book. I won’t chat about the novel until I’ve properly finished it. Though let’s say that for the moment it’s a case of Bad Santa.

4) The Delicate Cover: This tends to be a relatively thin book with a painting/photo and a blurb that suggests something arty and dull. Anita Brookner comes to mind here (though I have got a few of her books now though amongst the great unread at the moment).

There was also one other thing about Mr Hayden’s piece (whose books incidentally I haven’t read either – so many books – so little time ) that sprang to mind. His concentration on general literature ignored the genre where women writers have had critical and popular (including men) acclaim through the decades and that’s crime.

From Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers through to Liza Cody, P D James, Sarah Paretsky, Ruth Rendell  with now Lynda La Plante and Val McDermid female writers have shown that if you write in a subject men are interested in they are happy to read you without any issues of gender. And, it should be stressed that often the people doing the detecting are women as well.

I’m not saying that men (including myself) shouldn’t read more books by women authors. But I am saying that the reasons we haven’t are probably less obvious than Mr Hayden’s article would suggest.

Until the next time.