Friday, August 7, 2009

Say What? He Reads, She Reads

One of the tiny luxuries I afford myself at work it Booklist. I will horde the latest edition until I can curl up in a comfy chair with my cup of fresh coffee, my Booklist, and read it from cover to cover.

For people who do not know, Booklist is just as its title suggests, a list of books. It is a magazine where they list reviews of the most recent book releases and spotlight the notables. When I was an active bookseller, I used this to keep abreast of new titles so I could talk with customers with better knowledge of the book and new developments in the publishing world.

Despite my overwhelming joy from reading last month's edition, there is one thing that bothered me about the journal. Something that brought a sudden frown on my face and contempt to my eyes every time I read it... The "He Reads/She Reads" section, where they highlight some of the best books for men and for women in a particular genera.

Really? Really? He reads and She reads, because we read different things? What?

I could understand if it was a book on being a good Father or on breastfeeding, but these were your run of the mill beach reads.

When I was a bookseller (wow! I can say that in the past tense now!), I wouldn't hand-sell something to someone based on their gender. I would sell it to them based on their past reading habits and interests! Now that I am a librarian, I don't help people find particular books because they are girls or boys - I get them what they are looking for, whether it is a non-fiction about baseball heroes or a good novel about traveling pants.

No! For a seemingly understanding profession (the book biz, that is), how and why are we continuing to fall into the same trap?

I think that my aversion to this has more to do with the language itself than the concept of classifying books. If this section were framed in the context of "People who like Carrie Bradshaw, would also like..." or "For the History buff..." not only would it reach a more targeted audience, but it would also not alienate those who don't fit into the stereotypical mold. That is taking the gender exclusivity out of the equation and focusing on the important part, their interests.

A disclaimer is needed here: I am a woman and I have never read Twilight or Shoppergirl, neither have I read anything about baseball. I love scifi and hate fantasy, though I will get drawn into historical romances from time to time.

Everyone's taste is different and if we are marketing to those differences, shouldn't we focus on this and leave gender out of it?

This past weekend I was helping out the PNWA at their annual conference. One particularly interesting person, Elin, was one of the few self-proclaimed Chick Lit authors. She commented that people kept calling her brave for proudly waving that flag, but something she said struck a cord. She said, "Chick Lit is what I write, it is just the name for my sub-genera and you have to call an apple an apple."

She was quick to add, "I don't pretend that every chick is going to like my books, and I also don't pretend only chicks are reading them. A certain person will enjoy this book, that is it."

Am I being overly sensitive here? I feel like I am just writing common sense stuff, but if I am totally off base here, let me know.

1 comment:

  1. You're so totally on base, Heather. Often how we self-identify is far different from how others pigeon-hole us.

    Excellent insights, Heather!