It’s “common knowledge” that men don’t read books by women. But the truth is a little more complex; in fact, some men do read books by female authors.
But in my experience, I seem to be a relatively rare creature: a man who not only reads many novels by women but often prefers them. I have always been more interested in realistic fiction that addresses the human condition and relationships than in the genre fiction most men read (thrillers, mysteries, military strategy, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.). I’m sure being an English major had something to do with it. While at CSUN and UCLA, I came to love writers as different as Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, and Flannery O’Connor.
So my tastes have seemingly always run to more serious/literary fiction. And a lot of novels in that category are written by women. It would take a concerted effort not to read literary fiction by women. In the years after college, I enjoyed and recommended books by contemporary authors like Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley, Louise Erdrich, Toni Morrison, Anne Tyler, Marilynne Robinson, Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, and Jhumpa Lahiri. More recently, I have been impressed by the work of Ann Patchett, Elena Ferrante, Roxana Robinson, Kate Grenville, Jennifer Haigh, and Jesmyn Ward.
Perhaps my perspective on literary fiction by women will be of interest to other readers, writers, and publishers. And maybe, just maybe, I will be able to convince some other men to pick up a novel with a woman’s name on the cover.