The Sunday Salon: Where have all the Men Gone?

I stumbled across an interesting fact the other day.  Well, interesting to me, anyway.  So far this year I’ve only read 6 books by male authors.  Out of 44.  That’s 14% for those who might not have a calculator handy, which I figure are most of you.  Male authors have fallen off my reading list at an alarming rate (34% in 2009, 24% in 2010).  This got me thinking:  why?

Let’s take a look at the guys I’ve read this year (click on the links to read reviews):

The Booker Prize is an obvious source of my male author reading, with two male nominees read so far and two more planned (Remembering Babylon, by David Malouf; and On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan). I may read more Powell, and I’m also planning to read All Quiet on the Western Front for Remembrance Day in November.  But I’ll be surprised if my “male author stat” goes over 15%.

It’s really difficult to optimize multiple goals:  reading from my stacks, reading prize winners, reading men as well as women, reading authors from other countries, and so on.  I’m afraid the men are being pushed aside by the Orange Prize, Virago Modern Classics, Belletrista, and my Iris Murdoch Booker reading.  And you know what?  I’m not really that bothered about it, because I’m having a great year of reading.  I’m just choosing books that “grab” me, and for the time being these happen to be mostly written by women.

But I’m open to suggestions.  I really need to clear more books off my stacks.  And behold, there are some male authors patiently waiting there:

  • Tortilla Flat, by John Steinbeck
  • The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
  • Gardens of Water, by Alan Drew
  • The Story of Forgetting, by Stefan Block
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  • American Rust, by Philip Meyer
  • When I Was Five I Killed Myself, by Howard Buten
  • The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan

If you can recommend any of these, leave a comment and plead your case!


Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

19 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Where have all the Men Gone?

  1. I’ve got a Jasper fforde on my stack too: ‘The Well of Lost Plots’ Great titles, aren’t they?

    I am a big fan of Ian McEwan. I think I’ve read all that he’s written – and On Chesil Beach is just as good as the rest of his workbut must be one of his shortest.

    • Jill, I agree he’s marvelous, and those two books are short so why not? For some reason I keep passing them by. So, yeah, I’ll think about it!

  2. One male writer that I really, really enjoy is Tom Perrotta. He has a new book coming out later this month (that I’ve preordered) called The Leftovers. His Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher were stunning (IMO).

    I’ve also enjoyed Michael Cunningham. Richard Yates is another one….

    And, of course, the ones you mentioned.

    But in looking through my book list for the year, there were no male authors in July, only one in June, and throughout the rest of the year, slim pickings…there were two others not yet mentioned, Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson (and they’re not my favorites).

    Perhaps I really prefer women writers, thinking that they can pierce the woman’s heart better than male writers (since I enjoy books about women).

    Of the male protagonists I enjoy, most of those books are written by women, too, like Kate Atkinson and her Jackson Brodie character.

    Intriguing post.


    • Thanks for all those recs Laurel Rain. I enjoyed Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, and you’ve reminded me I should read more of his work. So many books … !

  3. I’ll second Jill’s nomination of Steinbeck. I’ve read all his novels, I think. In fact I remember spending a lot of time one high school summer on our upstairs porch, reading Steinbeck. The short ones are very good, but East of Eden is my favorite. And then there is Travels With Charley—a non-fiction read. I know you expect me to put in a word for Faulkner, so consider that done. Another excellent southern male writer on my favorites list is Robert Penn Warren. If you haven’t read All the King’s Men, I highly recommend you add it to your TBR pile.

    • Linda, I’ve read The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden (which, coincidentally, daughter #2 is reading for her upcoming 10th grade English course). I loved them both — so what’s keeping me from reading these two shorter books?! No idea, and I’m beginning to think I have no excuse 🙂 Faulkner & RPW — duly noted.

  4. 41 out of 60 books this year have been female authors for me…so, like you, I am reading more women writers (although at about 33% male, my reading is maybe just a little, teeny bit more balanced than yours!).

    With regard to the TBR books you listed – well, anything by Steinbeck is worth reading. The other book on your list that I loved was The Story of Forgetting – Block is an excellent writer and the story was wonderful. Also, although not on your list, Simon Van Booy is a writer I must recommend. He is a sensitive, very talented writer (I don’t think I’ve seen a bad review of any of his books). And one last suggestion…I know you enjoy suspense/thriller/mysteries…Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is what I like to call “literary suspense” because although it clearly falls in the suspense/crime fiction genre, his character development and the way the story is told inches it into the literary fiction category too (John Hart’s books are also like this).

    • Wendy, OK, this is the third comment in support of Steinbeck. So. OK then. Thanks for the other recommendations too! I can’t remember how I acquired The Story of Forgetting but who knows, it could have been your influence!

  5. The Eyre Affair is so full of awesome and fun, I would def. recommend it.

    Perhaps the Pearl is a better story when you read it in your forties as opposed to being 15 years old. I hated that book in grade ten. I didn’t forgive Steinbeck until I read Of Mice and Men, which I only read after loving the movie.

    • Good to hear about The Eyre Affair. It’s been lurking on my shelves for ages! In fact I think it may have migrated to my daughter’s shelves and will need to be rescued 🙂

  6. The Eyre Affair (and the rest of the series) is HILARIOUS! It’s a book-lover’s perfect read! Also, as long as you’re reading McEwan, might I suggest Atonement? I loved it when I read it, and it sort of restored my faith in the modern novel.

    • Jo, I loved Atonement (oh, have you seen the film, I LOVED it!), and I think it’s because of Atonement that I picked up On Chesil Beach. Thanks for the second vote for The Eyre Affair!

  7. When I Was Five I Killed Myself is one of my favourites so I will always promote that, but I do wonder what you’ll make of it. It is really short so I think you should give it a try!

    I also loved The Story of Forgetting, but I think all the books on your list are probably good – perhaps you should just work your way through them all 😉

  8. I’ll echo the recommendations for Jasper Fforde – he’s brilliant!

    My reading usually skews about 75% / 25% toward women writers, but I’ve been making a deliberate effort to balance it more this year. Having said that, the books that tend to appeal most to me in terms of subjects and themes – particularly in fiction – are usually more likely to be authored by women, so my reading will probably always skew toward them.

    • Florinda, I think I will always skew that way too. I remember one time where I read three “very male” books in a row and that made me realize how much I enjoy the female literary voice.

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