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Sarah Lindsay

Men Reading Women: Practical Suggestions

Men reading in the woods
Men reading in the woods, 1922 | via Wikimedia Commons | public domain

Part 4 of a five-part series on why men may be reluctant to read women and how even well-intentioned men default to reading other men. Read part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

On Monday, I offered some reasons why men (and women) should read more books by and about women. But how do you go about doing this, if you’re realizing that your Goodreads history is overbalanced towards men?

First, and probably most obviously, find books by women on topics or in genres that you enjoy. Enjoy literary fiction? Check out female nominees and past winners for the National Book Award or the Man Booker Prize. Enjoy genre fiction? Browse a publisher’s catalog or the library shelves for books by women in that genre.

If you’re looking for theology or spiritual writing by women, many websites and publications have reading lists. Try this one, from Christianity Today, or this one, from Christians for Biblical Equality, or this one from Daily Theology.

Next, be willing to try new types of books. Give Pastrix or Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis a chance. Try a family drama — I’m fond of Liane Moriarty at the moment, and it’s hard to go wrong with Jennifer Weiner. These books are by women, about women, and marketed to women, but they capture the human experience and are just fun reads.

Not everyone likes everything; you may decide that a particular genre is not for you. But you may also find a whole new type of book to enjoy.

Once you find books by women that you enjoy, tell people about them! Both my husband and I are in (separate) theology book clubs (yes, we’re nerds), and we both work to notice when our reading lists veer too heavily male and to make alternate suggestions. And fortunately, our friends will do the same, which means that we also receive new recommendations.

And, as you are able, purchase books by women. Publishers want to make money, so creating a demand for a certain type of book will encourage publishers to publish and promote women writers.

Finally, especially if you have young children in your life, work to normalize reading about and empathizing with girls for both girls and boys. Shannon Hale has heartbreaking stories about parents, teachers and librarians who steer (or shove) boys away from books about girls. Even though we not only allow but encourage girls to read about boys, the reverse is not true.

So if you have children, or work with children, or are in a position to recommend books to children, don’t always give books about trucks and monsters to boys. Give them books like The Princess in Black or The Princess and the Pizza or Journey, or recommend them. Suggest that boys read about Serena Williams and Ruth Bader Ginsberg (the Who Was …? series is great for elementary schoolers). Don’t just give Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls to girls; direct boys to it too.

We don’t need to replace Harry Potter and Holden Caulfield (okay, maybe Holden Caulfield). But we do need to make sure that boys and girls are expected to read about women protagonists, and that boys feel as comfortable identifying with Katniss Everdeen as girls do identifying with Harry Potter.

Changing large cultural attitudes towards women writers will be a long, slow process. Significant cultural pressure leads to the dismissal of women’s writing as fluffy, emotional or specific rather than universal, and the problem is only worse within theological and spiritual writing.

But slow as change may be, it starts with deliberate choices to value women’s voices and experiences and to reevaluate our assumptions about the values of masculinity, rationality, and objectivity. And that change can start with the simple act of picking up a book by a woman.

Come back on Monday for my list of women writers to get you started!

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that I earn a small percentage if you, dear reader, purchase a book through the link.

Tagged: books | gender | theology