As someone who reads a lot I’m often asked for recommendations from friends, co-workers etc… and sometimes find myself racking my brain as to which will make me look the most interesting. Offering up a book rec is a little vulnerable, it’s an insight into what you enjoy and what you feel. I will always throw up ‘Memoirs of an imaginary friend‘ which was recommended to me by my best friend, possibly one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, as well as Room by Emma Donoghue, Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill and You by Caroline Kepnes.
I’m probably never going to throwout the Handmaid’s tale, or Chaucer or pride and prejudice, because a) people already mostly know them and b) I don’t find them the most enjoyable. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate Handmaid’s Tale, God, that stuck with me throughout my life but I didn’t enjoyyyyy it. It depressed the bejesus out of me.
Sometimes I just want to recommend chick-lit, to give it it’s fluffy title (I prefer women’s fiction) but I feel I’ve been conditioned to feel embarrassed by this. I once brought a pile of books into work (including some women’s fiction in it) and had at least 2 people scoff them. “Holiday reads” is the most common non-compliment. There’s the insinuation it doesn’t take much brain power to read them.
However, I want to stop being embarrassed, I bloody love women’s lit. I went to a talk last night featuring Lindsey Kelk, Paige Toon and Louise Pentland, who were discussing their recent releases. All 3 women have very different paths into the publishing industry, but they all are incredibly smart, funny, hard working and most of all inspiring. Between them they have millions of followers, number one best sellers and over 25 novels between them. They write FEMALE characters that you root for, that you want to succeed, that you laugh with, laugh at, cry with, get frustrated at and most of all want to get to know.
Yet we’re still kinda scoffing at them (I say we as a plural, not necessarily me haha) yet David Nicholls writes what I have to decided to refer to as dick-lit. His characters are no different, no more fleshed out than any of those written by the women above or the likes of Marian Keyes but David Nicholls is a serious author, who has serious respect, and I love his work but fail to see a difference other than the fact he’s a dude.
And I’m not going to make this into a sexism rant because it’s not, but I think it’s time to stop scoffing at women (and men) that enjoy these so called easy, holiday reads. Feel free to laugh at them when you’ve written something that invokes the feelings that these women do, but until then appreciate that a book, like all art forms doesn’t have to be something that leaves you feeling depressed or ready to take on the world one patriarchy at a time, sometimes it can just leave you with a warm feeling and ready to take on the day. That’s certainly not embarrassing.