Monday, November 17, 2008

Do Real Men Read?

Do real men read? That’s the question Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly asked. Well, actually, his question was: "Who says real men don’t read?”

Apparently, according to King, “publishing types” say they don’t. But King disagrees and comes up with some good examples of authors writing the kind of material “real” men like to read.
What men want from an Elmore Leonard novel is exactly what women want from a Nora Roberts novel — escape and entertainment.
Now, of course, this is a generalization of what women -- and men -- want in books. There are plenty of exceptions. But he’s got a point.
Women like stories in which a gal meets a handsome (and possibly dangerous) hunk on a tropic isle; men like to imagine going to war against an army of bad guys with a Beretta, a blowtorch, and a submachine gun (grenades hung on the belt optional).
What are these kinds of entertaining books called? Dude lit? Nah. King, and his son, peg them as “manfiction.”

Here’s who King lists as the leading writers in the field of manfiction today:
Michael Connelly
Robert Crais
Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)

And the one he rates the best? Lee Child. King says Child’s lead character, Jack Reacher is “the coolest continuing series character now on offer.”
Reacher has also rescued his share of damsels in distress. He wanders the U.S., sometimes hitchhiking, more often riding buses. He dresses in cheap workingman's duds bought in chain stores, pays cash, and (this is the part I really love) he used to carry only a toothbrush for luggage. He satisfies the most elemental male daydream, which is at bottom quite sweet: to ramble around and help out when help is needed. Possibly with a Beretta, a blowtorch, and a submachine gun. Grenades optional.
Okay, all your guys out there, what do you think? Do you read manfiction? Who’s your favorite manfiction author?


  1. I read a lot more manfiction than my husband does. (I tend to get my chiclit recommendations from him). My favorite manfic author has to Clive Cussler.

  2. Ooh, Clive's a good read, I agree.

    My husband and I probably read the same amount too, since we pass books on to each other. But he definitely prefers "manfiction" although the man can actually be a woman -- it's the action he goes for.

  3. Sigh, I guess I gotta turn in my man card. I don't read any of that stuff. I get my manly jollies watching sports with a cold one & a burger. Or watching Batman (the last two, the serious movies) or Die Hard, or maybe an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and thinking myself fully man enough to be every bit the swashbuckling hero those guys are - well, when I was younger of course.

    But for reading? Nah. Gimme intrigue, conflict and resolution, complex characters, suspense, mystery, heavy stuff, message stuff, not picky about the specific genre.

  4. Ah, Marvin, a true manly man. Did you know that romance novels have complex characters?

    Actually, it sounds like you're getting your manfiction via the movies.

  5. I hang onto everyone of those authors King named. We were straightening our library last week and I remarked to my wife that I hadn't realized Connelly wrote so many books. Then we went to a library book sale and I found another one I hadn't read.

    Manfiction describes my target audience perfectly. I often wonder, though, if it isn't a dwindling audience. At times I have described the people I write for as the men who have given up reading and are going for the straight-to-video releases, who have the complete set of Andy Sidaris DVDs.

  6. (My hubby reads Clive, Clancey, etc.)
    Excellent choice of topic for a post. My husband and I do read different types of work; however, my male friends way back from h.s English class still read a variety of books. Granted, these are "literary" men-types and my husband prefers action or sci-fi man fiction instead of being reminded of school by reading classics or anything with thought.

    Does this topic relate to "chick flicks?" hmmm


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