By January 7, 2010 10 Comments Read More →

Let’s Hear It for the Boys

Let’s face it — most book club members are women.  And from what I’ve observed, most book club leaders are also women.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s why so many of the books being talked about these days (at least in literary fiction groups) are written by women.  Is this apparent preference a feminist stance?  Or is it just a sexist delusion on my part?

Right now,  I know many book discussion enthusiasts are waiting with bated breath for The Help by Kathryn Stockett to come out in paperback so the chats can begin.  But what about new works of literary fiction by men?  I’m wondering how many clubs out there are planning to focus on recent books by Philip Roth, Richard Russo, Pat Conroy, Russell Banks, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, T. C. Boyle, Larry McMurtry or John Irving.  (Just to name a few examples.)   And will any book leader ever again decide to choose a book by John Updike, Norman Mailer, or David Foster Wallace, now that they’re no longer with us?

One of my book club “rules” is to alternate titles according to the sex of the author — just to get some different points of view.  I wonder how many other book club leaders make an effort to do this.  I know the cause of male writers is helped when their books are best sellers — many, many book clubs have talked about The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini,  Atonement by Ian McEwanand The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, but were they exceptions, merely because they were well reviewed and widely publicized by their publishers?

I realize that book groups that typically read and talk about mysteries and science fiction do zero in on works by men more frequently, which makes me happy.  I just wish there were more leaders trying to get their clubs interested in some of the great American novels written by guys.  Or is this all in my head?  Let’s hear some statements to the contrary, and maybe I’ll start feeling better.

Comments

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

10 Comments on "Let’s Hear It for the Boys"

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  1. ncstllns@gmail.com' Nancy says:

    I just went over the list of books that my fiction book club is reading in the 2009-2010 year and out of 12 books 10 are written by men. I only have on male patron than attends my book group and he was very happy with the selections made, he mentioned he stopped attending our mystery book club because all the selections were too “girlie.”

  2. beretbrenckman@gmail.com' Beret Brenckman says:

    Ted:

    It’s totally in your head. The bookclubs that I lead read men and women equally. In fact, a few read men almost exclusively. We’ve done the Roth, and the Irving, and Faulkner, and Phillbrick.

    Feel better soon!

    b

  3. apaluck@mxcc.commnet.edu' Anne says:

    I lead a bookclub at the college where I work and we do have men who are regulars. We have read Chabon’s Yiddish Policeman’s Union and Updike’s The Terrorist. We do read a lot of nonfiction as well. My choices, influenced by my group, are about 60% male authors.

  4. abbyforrester@yahoo.com' Krystale says:

    I went over my bookclub’s lists from 2008-2010, and each year it’s been 50/50. We didn’t set out trying to have an even number of books by gender, it just seemed to work out that way. We have one male member.

  5. bspratford@hotmail.com' Becky says:

    Ted, in 2009 my group the following titles by male authors:
    -The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
    -Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
    -North River by Pete Hamil
    -P.S. by Studs Turkel
    -Manhunt by James Swanson

    That’s 5 out of 12. I do know what you mean though. I feel like we choose a lot more books dealing with women’s issues. In fact, looking ahead at our planned books for the first few months of 2010, I am seeing a lot of female authors.

  6. hwehmeyer@gmail.com' Holly says:

    My book group has 7 people 2 of which are men. We read about equal amounts male and female authors. But I do often find myself searching for books that aren’t targeted exclusively at women when choosing a book to recommend.

  7. Selections for my library’s book discussion group are evenly divided this year, but our local “One Book” project has had six male authors and two female authors. We are trying hard to find a woman writer who appeals to both men and women but who is not at the top of the bestsellers list.

  8. atodd@phpl.inrfo' Alex says:

    Glancing over our ‘master bibliography’ of titles from the past 10+ years, I would say that a strong majority of titles we’ve read were written by men.

  9. As book group leader of a large group (with just one man,) I try to alternate male and female authors. In 2009 we read W. Somerset Maugham, Tobias Wolff, Chris Bohjalian, Truman Capote and Rohinton Mistry.

    Coming up this year are Mark Twain, Ron Rash, Garth Stein, and Hemingway, so far.

    It’s all good!

  10. ckubala@columbiactlibrary.org' CarolK says:

    I took a look at this year’s selections. In our fiction group which is attended by all women, 4 out of 9 are authored by men. This seems consistent with other years. In the non-fiction group which has on average 3-4 men, 6 out of 8 are written by men. Looking back, more of our non-fiction titles have been authored by men.

    Our groups vote on titles as suggested by members. The titles we choose seem to be chosen more for story/subject than gender of author but I’ll keep this in mind when suggesting my own future picks.

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