Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Alafair Burke's "Real Men Read Women" Campaign

Some of you know that my husband, Jim, was an eclectic reader. He read everything from quantum physics books to biographies to thrillers. But, for years, I had a hard time getting him to read female writers. Oh, he'd read Ann Rule's true crime books. But, thriller writers? It took me a long time, but I convinced him to branch out. Before he died, he was reading Tess Gerritsen, Alex Kava, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Unger and Lisa Gardner. In fact, he'd try a female author if I brought a book home. Success!

It's not always that way, which is why I asked author Alafair Burke if I could reprint the letter she sent the DorothyL listserv. With Alafair's permission, here's her letter.

I frequently get emails from male readers who say, “I don’t like women authors, but I do like you.” Appreciative yet perplexed, I started asking readers why they thought they didn’t like women authors. I know there have been related conversations here on the list, but usually I'd hear that women weren't hard-boiled enough, or that there was too much romance and not enough action. Or they simply believed that women writers were writing for women and not men.

I'd like to stamp out the saying "I don't read women," one t-shirt at a time. I also want to promote youth literacy. Like chocolate and peanut butter, the two ideas have come together beautifully with "Real Men Read Women" gear. I’ve enlisted just a handful of some of my favorite female writers in this fund-raising effort to support youth literacy. Thanks to bestselling (and super cool) authors Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman, Karin Slaughter, and Lisa Unger, “Real Men Read Women” t-shirts and other gear are available online at There's also a shirt that says "I like boys who read books by girls."

If this is a hit, I'd love to enlist other writers to lend their names to the effort down the road. I hope you all don't mind my posting a plug for the gear here. All profits go to youth literacy.


Alafair Burke
author of Long Gone and official t-shirt peddler

It's a great campaign, Alafair! And, a great way to support youth literacy. Thanks for letting me help spread the word.


Joe Barone said...

I glanced back over my blog and found that I indeed read more men than women, but I do read both.

To be honest (I don't know if I should be honest, but I will be), there was a time when I resented women taking over the genre I'd read all my life. Now I've come to truly appreciate some women writers especially. Louise Penny comes immediately to mind. Kate Atkinson, Anne Perry, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, and there are others.

Also, despite my prejudices I read a huge number of Agatha Christies until I burned out on Hercule, Miss Marple and the gang. Now I read them once in a while.

One of the useful aspects of your blog is that it has led me to some good women writers.

Lesa said...


I appreciate your honesty. This is just my opinion. I think many of the women took over the traditional mystery, while many of the men turned to thrillers. As a fan of the traditional mystery, I tend to read more women authors. Not always, though. I love Chris Grabenstein, Robert B. Parker (sniff), Brad Parks.

Thank you. I appreciate that last comment that you find my blog useful for leading you to some good women writers.

kathy d. said...

I don't get it. Women didn't take over the genre. Women writers just began getting published more often.

When I was younger I read Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, Agatha Christie, along with male writers.
Years later I found out about Ngaio Marsh, Patricia Carlon, Margaret Millar. And there were more.

But, gee, women didn't take over. Women writers just edged in there, getting a piece of the pie in terms of publishers, readers and sales -- a share. (And why look at women writers like an alien life form?) There's room for everyone in readership -- although publishers are now publishing best-selling writers, female and male, and not taking risks or publishing lesser known writers. So now it's about which writers bring in the most sales.

But there were always women mystery readers, and girls. Many of us began by reading Nancy Drew. When I was a teenager, I then read Perry Mason, Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes books, and was looking for more women characters and except for Miss Marple -- not my thing -- couldn't find any series.

But, gee, consider female readers and writers.

I like Alafair Burke's letter. I have read about this issue regarding European book reviewers, some of whom only read male authors' books. Huh? Women have had the vote for nearly a century now; can't their works be published, read and reviewed equitably?

Lesa said...

You're right, Kathy. Women only started getting a share of the genre with Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller & Sara Paretsky. But, don't be upset with Joe. He admits he started reading women authors, and has enjoyed them. I don't really get the male attitude toward women authors, either, but women are willing to read both men and women. That's probably a very good thing for male authors, because my guess is female readers outnumber male readers. What if we only read female authors? I think male authors would suffer.

Sara Thompson said...

I worked as a librarian for years and have never heard this. We had one older male patron that would only read female authors because he said the sex was better. I don't read a lot of thrillers and go more for cozy mysteries than harder mysteries so I guess I end up reading only female authors in that genre.

Lesa said...

Ah, but Sara, you might be reading male authors even in the cozies, and you just don't realize it. Tim Myers, for instance, has written under a number of female names.

I have heard this. As I said, my husband was one of those men who wouldn't read female thriller authors for years. He thought men did the action better. He finally realized women did just as good a job.

Kris said...

I love the "I like boys who read books by girls" shirt. Saving my pennies for that one.

Lesa said...

Aren't they great, Kris? Terrific idea! As I said, I would have bought one for Jim.