May 20, 2006

Man Books

I've just finished reading Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller which I picked up for two quid from Oxfam the other day. To be honest when reading the back and looking at the front cover I thought the themes probably wouldn't appeal to me, but I saw it had been nominated for the Man Booker Prize so gave it a go. I had assumed that the Man Booker Prize is a varient on the normal Booker Prize for fiction that chooses novels designed for men, either to encourage more men into reading fiction or to get them to read books that aren't stereotypical "mens books". I didn't enjoy the book and I thought it was definitely written for women, and when my mum told me today that the Man Booker Prize is what the Booker Prize has been called since the company Man got involved that explained this books nomination.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about in this entry is "man books". I've read several books that are often called "woman books", a term which i think can be used without demeaning a book nor saying that it will be enjoyed exclusively by women, without meaning the slightest offence to men who do enjoy them, but which describes a book which on the whole will be more enjoyed by women than by men. Some of these I have found to be very well written, such as Notes On A Scandal or The Fortunes Of War, yet I have not enjoyed them where many of my female friends have. I can recognise similar traits in them, for example they often describe peoples clothing and appearance in far more detail than I find interesting and they may have a narrator who is well described and likeable but who I find it hard to relate to. I can see that these are examples of "woman books" that are also very good books.

I find it much harder to recognise good "man books". There are authors like Tom Clancy who write books about guns and violence that I find quite entertaining but I wouldn't for a second suggest that they are excellent books, while I enjoy them enough they lack character development or adequate scene setting. Presumably there are excellent books that have limited appeal for women but I really can't think of any examples and can't see what traits they would have, does anyone care to enlighten me as to what makes a good "man book"? Is there an active ingredient of a good "man book" rather than just the absence of ingredients that appeal to women?


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  1. Hi Tom, I jsut found your blog through the revelation blog. If you are who i think you are i think i know who you are…i think…

    Anyway, on the topic I'm reading 1984 at the moment and after a few seconds consideration I have deemed it a man book. It has the character development and brilliant scene setting you mentioned yet doesn't have guns/violence or stereotypical man things, its a brilliant book in a class of its own really. Can't think of any suitable words but consider it a man book none the less.

    21 May 2006, 00:26

  2. Hey John, I also think I know who you are but would be nice to think we could be picturing each other completely wrongly. I suppose 1984 could well be classed a man book, although I do know women who enjoy it. Unfortunately it wasn't a book that I particularly enjoyed myself so I'm still without an example of a good book that I've enjoyed but that doesn't appeal to women on the whole, have you got any other examples? I watched a bit of Where Eagles Dare last night and thought that the literary equivalent of that could well be classed a high quality man book.

    21 May 2006, 17:51

  3. Another book I've read recently, What A Carve Up, by Jonathan Coe. Its a social/political satire on Britain under Margaret Thatcher, it basically rubbishes Conservative right wing policy at the time and each character has a story about how it messed their lives up. I find it interesting anyway as I study social policy, but its also got an mystery element too it as all the 'bad guys' get butchered at the end and for a while you're not sure who it is, as so many people have motives.

    Although I've never met anyone else who's read it, personally i would consider it more a 'man book' than a 'woman book'.

    21 May 2006, 18:25

  4. Dave

    i am going to suggest that the Dirk Gently books by Douglas Adams might be man books, im basing this on the fact that i enjoyed it and upon describing it to Lulu she wasnt too enthusiastic.

    might i also suggest Walking On Glass by Iain Banks, Jamie idolises this book and i think he tried to get his girlfriend to read it and she didnt want to. my reasoning ends with this being a man book for the same reasons as Dirk Gently.

    22 May 2006, 11:46

  5. Can't say i've read either of these but i'll look out for them when browsing the shelves of Oxfam. (I've decided buying books from Waterstones is for people with too much money, there are plenty to be found second hand in charity shops).

    22 May 2006, 21:49

  6. Dave

    i am yet to buy a book for myself that cost more than a pound (maybe £1.50). the 20p trough outside Books for Amnesty does me well…

    24 May 2006, 08:10


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