This is one of those questions that really irks me. And I think it goes into the larger question of male or female author. By the way, I hate saying ‘male’ and ‘female’ because they are social and not biological terms, but it doesn’t make sense for me to say man protagonist, so I’m going to stay with the social terms for the rest of this post, but just know that I don’t like them.
I mentioned that this question is part of the larger question of whether or not you or I or whomever the reader is prefers books written by men or women over the other sex. If you happen to be one of those individuals who says, “I only like books by men. They tend to be better written with better stories.” you can just stop reading this post right now, because I do not fall into that category and you’ll find the rest to conflict with your tastes. But if you’re not like that, then let’s discuss the question a bit more in depth. Here is my question to you.
Do you prefer to read books written by men over those written by women, or vice versa? If so, why?
This would be my answer if asked this particular question.
“Is that a joke?” There is no hint of sarcasm when I say that this would be my response. It’s a ridiculous question that merits no response at all. I mean, let’s think about some of the very best authors writing today, no matter the genre. Stephen King. J.K. Rowling. Lee Child. Suzanne Collins. Mitch Albom. Veronica Roth. See what I did there? For every great writer today who happens to be male or female there is a great writer of the opposite sex. So for someone to sit there and say that men write better than women or that women write better than men is simply inexplicable. And there are so many more authors that I could have mentioned, but for the sake of this post chose to limit the list to a handful.
Now that that’s out of the way, why don’t we go into the titular question of this post.
Do you prefer to read a male or female protagonist?
I think some readers would say that women mostly write women leads and men do the same with men. Maybe, but that has nothing to do with your own personal preference, right? Don’t mistake this question for asking if you have a favorite author or two, because I definitely do, the question I’m discussing is whether or not your reading habits tend to involve more protagonists of a particular sex because you have mindfully made that happen.
You see, my list of favorite authors includes James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Suzanne Collins, Robert B. Parker, T. Jefferson Parker, and Marcus Sakey. You’re probably telling yourself that I just named six authors, and only one of whom is a woman. I did that on purpose because I hoped that you’d catch onto that. Yes, my favorite list of authors may only have one female, but let me tell you about the books on my shelves right next to me. I have several by Sue Grafton. I have even more by Karin Slaughter. I have all of the books Michele Martinez has written. I have a book by Tess Gerritsen. I have several by Karen Traviss. I could continue but I think I’ve made my point. Yes, my favorite authors happen to mostly be men, but my reading tastes include plenty of books written by women with female protagonists. I just happen to read what I read when I read it. I don’t log into my Amazon account thinking, “Oh, I can’t buy any books with female protagonists right now. They’re too emotional and clueless.” And I hope no one else does that.
For example, I’m currently reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. My third favorite book ever is Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, which we all know has Katniss Everdeen as the protagonist.
The point that I’m trying to make is that there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books with protagonists of a particular sex. And there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books written by authors of a particular sex. I understand that we all have our preferences, but there’s something to be said when you look at your shelf of 200 books and only a handful are written by either a man or a woman. There are bad books and bad writers, but they are absolutely not limited to one sex. So if you find yourself with far too many books with male protagonists and not so many with females in the lead role, I challenge you to go to your neighborhood Barnes and Noble or log into your Amazon account and a find a book with a female protagonist. If you haven’t read any of The Hunger Games books then I would highly recommend you take a look at that trilogy. If you happen to fall on the other side of the stick with books starring mostly women, then I challenge you to do the same thing and find a book with a male protagonist. The first in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson is Along Came a Spider, I’d recommend it.