“Studies show men avoid female authors. Ahead of the Women’s prize for fiction, chair of judges Mary Ann Sieghart finds out why – and we ask male authors to redress the balance.
“The film-maker Richard Curtis realised during the first lockdown that he would at last have time to immerse himself in books. More specifically books by women, “to compensate for 63 years of male bias”, he explains. “It’s been an amazing two years: the glory of Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett, Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Daphne du Maurier, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and so many others.”
“Now, 32 books later, he has become positively evangelical. When a male friend had a birthday recently, Curtis gave him four novels by female writers. “I have given away more copies of Olive Kitteridge [by Elizabeth Strout] than you can imagine,” he says. “I spend my whole time romping through bookshops saying: ‘Why haven’t you got more Anne Tyler novels on your shelves?’ I’ve had a genuine epiphany in terms of the novels that I read.”
“Yet there are still many men who, like Curtis until recently, barely read books by women. On average, women will read roughly 50:50 books written by men and by women; for men, the ratio is 80:20. Why should that be? “I think subject matter has a lot to do with it,” the novelist Ian McEwan says. Men are said to be more interested in violence than relationships: they often prefer war or crime novels to ones about couples or families, or so the stereotype goes. “But of course there are loads of men writing about relationships and parents and despair and suicide, and all the ways in which love can go wrong. That’s been the engine of English literature for three and a half centuries.”
Read the rest of the article and see which books were recommended by male authors here.