I confess I have a gender-reading bias; I don’t read books written by men for men. I didn’t think there was such a thing—question, if Women’s fiction is called Chic-lit, what’s Men’s fiction called? Dick-lit? Is there male-specific fiction?
In the past Male fiction has been anything with an Adventure plot, mainly Fantasy and Sci-fi. I found something online called Fratire fiction-but it sounds like a mixture of Fraternity and satire, and I’m unsure if that’s a real thing.
I always knew I had a genre bias. I don’t like Romance (those bodice-rippers where a man and woman on the front cover are engaged in a serious staring-slash-backbend contest and whose heads are easily interchangeable). I don’t like Fantasy (Exhibit A: The Hobbit—who writes four pages of Troll songs? JRR Tolkien, that’s who). I struggle reading Young Adult in general, and Nicholas Sparks in principal. And I don’t read books for males although I thought I did.
It can be assumed male audiences read Dan Brown and Stephen King, but those are gender-neutral authors, not specifically male-lit authors. I didn’t think there was a difference. I was wrong.
My misconception was realized just last week. On Goodreads about a year ago I read a book review of a particular series rooted in Fantasy fiction—that’s one strike against it. The series review was from an old friend I knew when I was seventeen-years-old. We aren’t really friends now we’re more like Goodreads associates. Anyway, Brandon, was the quintessential geek when I knew him; highly intelligent, bored with average smarts (yes, me—absolutely!) I think he got a perfect score on his ACT—see, geek-ish. Brandon appraised the author Jim Butcher and was impressed that every book within the Dresden Files series was great, which surprised him.
I read the review but was hung up on the fantastical aspect of it—Wizards, magic potions, and swords, Oh my!—and although I believed Brandon and despite what I remembered about his intellect, I still didn’t check them out.
Then, two weeks ago, an author friend of mine, Scott—the Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, and E Chen of words and my writing group presented me with a stack of must-reads. It was an eclectic group consisting of a literary genre, a young adult (which I opposed but was given anyway), and Jim Butcher’s Storm Front. Ugh.
You must know that I have a terrible habit of finishing every book I start, which explains me reading E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey (but only the first one). I admit I walked away pleased after reading it, not due to the material—torture fetishes, female degradation, and overall ridiculousness, but because it made me hopeful—If she can be a published writer, then why can’t I? I took Scott’s cache of books and immediately read the literary one; The Dinner by Herman Koch and loved it.
Last week I tackled Jim Butcher and what a shock it was! For starters, the narrative’s voice was refreshingly sarcastic—it was like looking in a literary mirror. Butcher’s book was more like a modern-day cowboy in the Wild West, except that the cowboy was really a Wizard in downtown Chicago. It was fun and humorous and well thought out. Respect man, respect!
So, my take away from the experience is this—I need to try something new, or try something else and do it often. Sampling a different genre reminds me of the first time I was given fresh Spinach on my salad plate and thought I’d never willingly eat a houseplant. Go figure—I love the stuff now.