Is It a Husband Book?

Josie Leavitt -- November 19th, 2012

Every day I lament that there are parents and kids who view all books along gender lines. If there’s a girl on the cover, most boys (please don’t get mad at my sweeping generalization, but it’s true) won’t pick it up, let alone read it. I think all books can be read happily by any gender. But I was giving this some thought and realized that the gender issue is coming from the parents.

Two women were shopping for their husbands and one of them showed the other The Tiger’s Wife, and the friend asked, “Is this a husband book?” The other woman shook her head and said no, it was more of a chick book. Here’s the thing: if adults won’t read across gender lines, how are we supposed to get kids too? Someone could easily say that The Tender Bar is really a guy book, and it could well be, but it’s also damned good. And to skip it because it’s about a boy and his growing up, really prevents those women from experiencing a great read.

This has always been a pet peeve of mine. Everyone benefits from reading books that are not thought of as books for their gender. We have a lovely male customer who comes in six times a year sheepishly asking for Nicholas Sparks type books. There is no reason for him to feel bad about liking love stories. But every time he comes in he explains why he likes those kinds of books. He shouldn’t have to explain. He should be able to read what he wants without feeling like he might be judged for what he likes.

So, here’s what I want folks to think about during the holidays as they buy books. Get one person, be it a kid or an adult, a book that is not a book thought of for their gender. Because here’s the thing: a good book is a good book. My brother loved Mrs. Piggle Wiggle as much as I did, and I loved The Great Brain just as much as he did. And if my mom had steered us away from those books, we both would have missed out.