How Do You Define Chick Lit?

Barbara Vey -- May 6th, 2012

I recently got into a discussion with an author about Chick Lit.  It wasn’t really about Chick Lit itself, it’s more about the definition of Chick Lit.


Wikipedia defines Chick lit as genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.  The genre became popular in the late 1990s, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit.  Although it sometimes includes romantic elements, chick lit is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because the heroine’s relationship with her family or friends is often just as important as her romantic relationships.


Melissa Amster who writes for Chick Lit Central blog says, “I define chick lit as modern women’s literature featuring a female character ranging in age from 20-40, dealing with issues in the fields of career, romance and family (or even a mix of these items). In more recent times, a lot of chick lit has centered around fertility issues or pregnancy and divorce or infidelity. Some authors that stick out as chick lit for me are Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Jane Green, Emily Giffin and Carole Matthews.”



My conversation with this issue started with me saying I didn’t think that Jennifer Crusie wrote Chick Lit.  I think of her books as romantic comedy.  Even though this is close to Wikipedia’s definition, I think that Jennifer Crusie does have more romance in her books (which is fine with me).  To me, Chick Lit is more about women’s issues or maybe some of the more perceived notions of shopping, shoes and clothes (not anything that really interests me in real life).  Kind of like Sex and the City is to TV and I do think of the Sophie Kinsella books that way.

So I went out and asked people on the street their definitions of Chick Lit.

Sue, 51:  I think of magazines about fashion and celebrities as Chick Lit.

Britney, 22:  Books that are light and fluffy like shopaholic books.

Mary, 37:  Anything my husband wouldn’t read.

Rhonda, 49:  Romance…straight romance.

Sherry, 52:  Shoes, shopping, Sex and the City.

Rose, 36:  Girlfriends, Kinsella, Weiner.

Liz, 22:  Never heard of Chick Lit…what is it?

Love this sign in a Norway bookstore

Love this sign in a Norway bookstore


,I’ve discovered, over the years that how books are categorized can be very important to some people.  While they will read one genre, they will not read another because of where it might be placed on a book shelf even though they might really enjoy the book if they ever gave it a chance.  I’m all in favor of trying things at least once.


What about you?  How do you define Chick Lit?  Does it matter?  Do you read it?  Has it received a bad reputation?   Suggest a great Chick Lit book for me to read.

Bottom Line:  Yes, I’ve said it…I hate to shop.



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65 thoughts on “How Do You Define Chick Lit?

  1. Ifeoma Dennis

    Chick lit! Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me was definitely chick lit. But not Crazy For You. That I can define as a romantic comedy.

    Sophie Kinsella is chick lit (I personally think her book- Can You Keep A Secret is more “chick lit” than the shopaholic series or the Undomestic Goddess or the Twenties Girl. I’m yet to read I’ve Got Your Number)

    Another chick lit author I love is Melissa Senate. Break Up Club was absolutely it.

    Then Sheila O’ Flanagan.

    Having these authors, chick lit is a genre I’d define as female, beachy, humorous and yet full of reality! It necessarily must not have a happy ending, but it wouldn’t have a tragic ending either :)

    1. Barbara Vey Post author

      It’s funny you mention Bet Me because that’s the one I don’t think is Chick Lit. I thought it was a romantic comedy, but it just goes to show that we all see things a little differently. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Anne Norup

    I define Chick Lit as light, funny, fluffy and fun. However, it’s not a genre I read often.

    I thought your comments about where to find it on the shelves was interesting. I do most of my shopping online now because I’ve become hooked on my NOOK! The “shelves” look different there than they do in a store. I tend to search more for authors now than for titles or genres.

    Loved your post. As always. Have an amazing week, Barbara!

  3. Stephanie Scott

    I agree, Chick Lit is the Shopaholic series, possibly Bridget Jones Diaries (a stand-out example), The Devil Wears Prada and books by Jane Green. I think the phase burned out a bit. I wouldn’t put Jennifer Weiner or Jodi Picoult in Chick Lit because their books deal with heavier issues and tend to have multiple characters telling the story. It seems like the industry has shied away from the label, too, preferring women’s fiction or subcategories of romance, which are actually more descriptive.

    1. Barbara Vey Post author

      Stephanie, it does seem like Chick Lit isn’t used much any more since the 22 year old never even heard of it. Although there are blogs and authors that tout it on their websites. Everything has to have a label so people know what their getting. It just seems like the labels are sometimes blurred a little.

      1. Tara

        Chick Lit definetely still exsists! I work at Barnes & Noble and every summer I create a Chick Lit table. Not all Chick Lit has to be “dumbed-down” fiction. You’d be suprised at how many titles move off that table!

  4. Ellie Miller

    I would tend to agree with some of the above definitions/criteria for Chick Lit while adding these thought of my own. Who are the ‘chicks’ involved? A book’s protagonists or its readers? Maybe early on in her career, but I honestly don’t see Jane Green’s more recent, beautifully thought-proking exploration of various issues affecting modern women as slotting neatly into that category. I thought at the time when the craze was at its peak that a lot of excellent, nicely evocative, really NON ‘fluff-and-sunshine’ books got sold down the river by misleading covers. I guess a stand-out example of that to my mind would be Dolores Stewart Riccio’s “Circle” series. OTOH Katie Fforde’s delightful novels really fill the bill for this 77 year-old Chick…LOL. And they fit my definition of that offshoot of women’s fiction: an interesting, gutsy young woman makes lemonade out of whatever lemons life deals her, usually by adopting an interesting new career or developing a business of her own. Watching her overcome adversity and winning out (especially when romance enters the picture) is half the fun and charm of these thoroughly enjoyable reads.

  5. Katharine Ashe

    I often think of Chick Lit as light in that Sex-in-the-City way, it’s true. But there are so many books packaged so that they look light but that are richly wonderful. A few years ago one of these introduced me to a spectacular author, Liza Palmer. Her debut, CONVERSATIONS WITH THE FAT GIRL, sported a bright pink and green cover with a pair of socked feet on a scale. The book has all the hallmarks of Chick Lit: struggles with career, family, friends, and love. And it’s definitely funny. But it’s not in the least bit fluffy; it’s a really powerful story of a woman coming to terms with the person she’s been and the person she wants to be. Does that mean it’s not Chick Lit? Your guess is as good as mine! :)

  6. Sarah P. / Julia's Child

    I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately, because of the way the Chick Lit blogs (and by that, I mean blogs with Chick Lit in the title) have embraced my book. I wasn’t expecting that at all–the book is not a romance. But it does deal with the concerns of modern women, and it is foremost a comedy.

    So I think the definition is more expansive than I’d once thought.

    Some authors bristle at the label. But my book is *absolutely* pitched at women. And as a comedy, if that makes the book “Chick Lit,” then so be it.

  7. nashnordin

    I think Chick Lit genre has gotten broaden. They have expanded the genre. There are Romance Chick Lit, Mystery Chick Lit, Marriage Lit and lots more…

    But I think of Chick Lit as a light read with a mix of romance, friendship, career and family. I like my Chick Lit book to be funny. Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series is a good example. Or Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart Series..

  8. Terri Bruce

    This is s a toughie – Chick Lit is seems to be one of those “I know it when I see it” genres and/or everything that isn’t romance or women’s fiction. It’s kind of all the quirky stories that don’t fit neatly into the other categories of “books that women read.” I love the person who responded that Chick Lit is “What my husband won’t read” LOL!

  9. Michele Gorman

    As a writer of chick lit, I’d define the genre as light (i.e. funny), contemporary fiction with a woman or women at its core. The topics can cover anything that women face in real life, and they may be silly (shopping addiction) or serious (drug addiction). Including romance, or career problems, isn’t what defines the books, but since these are areas that are important in lots of women’s lives, they are areas we, as chick lit writers, often explore.

    The key for me is the humour. If it’s not funny then I wouldn’t define it as chick lit, but as women’s fiction.

    That’s just my two cents!

  10. Nancy Naigle

    What is chick lit is the question of the century. Sometimes the lines between genres is just so darn sandy that we can’t even see them. I say…Life’s a Beach – read whatever floats your boat and name it whatever you like :)
    Hugs and happy reading~
    S.S. Small Town Romance ;)

  11. Pingback: This Week in Chick Lit

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