A few years ago I realized I needed to take a break from traditional “chick lit” and I was thrilled to eventually discover the world of “dude lit.” The chick lit novels that had once filled me with simple pleasure were now a source of annoyance and frustration. What had become increasingly harder and harder to overlook was that as I got older I was never going to have the life the protagonist had or even desired. I didn’t work a traditional office job. I didn’t have a secret crush on a boss or neighbor. I wasn’t going through a divorce. I didn’t have a bizarre shopping compulsion or a cluster of friends I went out drinking with every night.
Obviously, I am oversimplifying a vast genre, a genre that many authors find themselves trapped in simply because they have a female protagonist or bubblegum pink book cover art featuring a martini glass or a shopping bag. I know it is unfair of me to sweep ALL chick lit books off my reading list for a while, but by doing so I was able to step into the world of YA. Within YA I finally found some really fun male protagonists, and I relished hearing about the world from these very different points of view.
A few years ago Laura Franzen wrote a cut-to-the-chase observation about chick lit vs. dude lit, “In Chick Lit, women obsess over designers and shoes. In Dude Lit, men never change their clothes. They may not even dress; we’re not sure.”
Brie Clemintine actually thinks chick lit and dude lit have more in common. She explains, “Lately I’ve read books whose main character is a man who goes through a self-discovering journey that make me feel like I’m reading a “Chickless” Chick-Lit story, or, as I’ve come to think of it: Dude Lit.”
The dude lit I gravitate towards probably DOES have a lot in common with the self-discovery aspects of chick lit that I once enjoyed. What I needed was a shift in perspective. The voice telling the story was no longer enjoyable or familiar, and yet it felt like it was trying to be. Having a story told from a male point of view is brand new terratitory for me.
10 Dude Lit Books to Read:
1. If you enjoyed the pace and excitement of The Hunger Games or Divergent series, give As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins a try.
2. Novels with the protagonist as writers are always interesting to me. If you read Unless: A Novel by Carol Shields you may enjoy the comedic change of pace that How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely brings.
3. I know David Sedaris isn’t exactly chick lit, but if you enjoy him you will really like Larry Doyle. A great place to start to get to know Larry’s voice is with his I Love You, Beth Cooper. Yes. Yes it was turned into a horrible movie. Try not to hold that against the book.
Image of David Sedaris from Wikipedia.
4. Have you read the sweet YA novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han? I know we are talking about dude lit right now, but side step for just a moment and add that book to your must-read list if you haven’t read it yet. The adult and dude lit version of a love story told with songs is Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. (Yes, sort of like High Fidelity.)
5. The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld was a sci-fi page turner for me, but mostly because I was interested in the plot. I never got super invested in Tally Youngblood as a character. Grasshopper Jungle is told from the point of view of 16-year-old Austin Szerba and he is SUCH an interesting character that the plot (uh … you know, a plague of grasshoppers taking over the world) is made all the better because of it.
6. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos is the chick lit version of a character having a friendship with a young boy. It is soft and sweet. Most of you are probably familiar with the movie version (or, gah, maybe the TV version?!) of About a Boy, but the book by Nick Hornby is beautiful and wonderful.
7. I adore FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell; it is a great YA chick lit (ish) story of sisters who go off to college and experience life away from home for the first time. Looking for Alaska is John Green’s novel about a boy’s first year at a boarding school in Alabama. Every character is a bit of a mess, but I truly loved the voice driving the story.
8. What Alice Forgot written by Liane Moriarty is a coming home story of sorts. If you enjoyed the elements of homecoming and rebuilding, you may like the protagonist in This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.
9. I have not yet read Crazy Rich Asians but it is on my list for when I am over my chick lit break. I know that it is supposed to be complicated and one of those “funny romps.” I figured if that is something you just finished, you may be looking for something new and different, a dude lit novel, but written by a woman. Adelle Waldman wrote The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. and it was proclaimed one of the best books of 2013.
10. Pairing Elizabeth Gilbert with Douglas Coupland is cracking me up. On one hand you have the author who created Eat, Pray, Love and on the other you have the author who created the novel Generation X. I’ve matched these two authors because they are heads and tails of each other. The Signature of All Things by Gilbert is lightness and air and hopeful and redeeming. Coupland’s Worst. Person. Ever. can be a bit of a drag, but it’s all about the voice you are craving at the time.
Chick lit, dude lit, YA, what it boils down to is READ. Read what you love. If you finish something wonderful — tell people, and if you are looking for something new to read and love — ask.
Image Credits: all book covers from Amazon.com