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October 03, 2010

Sunday Book Thread

Publishers have known for a long time that the book-reading public skews heavily female -- probably by a 70-30 margin over men. This wasn't always the case, of course, but the numbers of male readers started to decline in the 1970's and never recovered.

Some genres of fiction that used to be heavily male-centric like detective novels and police procedurals have in recent years become almost completely female-centric. In the old days, female mystery fans could choose from Agatha Christie's Miss Marple or the dapper Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and men could have the more hard-boiled fare from Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler or James M. Cain. But in recent years, the most popular mysteries seem to skew female: Tami Hoag, Sarah Paretsky's "V. I. Warshawski" books, Sue Grafton's "alphabet" mysteries, and so on. The "hard boiled PI" character has given way to female leads who juggle relationships and job pressures with gunfights with the bad guys.


Horror novels are a dying breed, and have been for many years. Even Stephen King no longer writes horror per se; he's been working in the fantasy/sci-fi realm for many years. The biggest-selling "horror" novels of recent years have been the Twilight series of books by Stephanie Meyer, and I don't know of many guys who'd even admit to reading that stuff. (Charlaine Harris' "Sookie Stackhouse" novels seem to have lots of male fans, though.)

The last male-dominated beachheads in the fictional realm are in the action/adventure/thriller and hard sci-fi genres.

Stephen Hunter has been one of my favorites for years. His "Bob Lee Swagger" novels are all excellent, starting with Point of Impact. (Ignore the shitty movie they made of it, though.) Black Light is another good one. Hunter also wrote a series of books starring Bob Lee's father, MOH-winner Earl Swagger. My favorite is the outlandish but incredibly fun Pale Horse Coming.

Lee Child has made a name for himself with his "Jack Reacher" series of novels. I've only read a few of them, but I really liked Killing Floor.

Vince Flynn is another popular thriller writer these days with his "Mitch Rapp" books. I haven't read any of these books yet, but have heard good things about them. Brad Thor's books also get lots of raves from my thriller-reading friends. And Robert Ludlum's "Bourne" books are always a fun read. And finally: anybody remember Don Pendleton's endless "Mack Bolan: The Executioner" novels that were published back in the 1970's and 80's? There must have been like five thousand Mack Bolan books published back then.

As for hard sci-fi, I always push Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness In the Sky on people. That's just as good as modern sci-fi gets.

Greg Bear's Forge of God and Anvil of Stars is a great duology as well.

John Barnes has done some great books over the years, but one of my favorites is Mother of Storms.

And for some really great, large-scale space opera, you can't beat Dan Simmons' Hyperion novels. (He also wrote an excellent horror novel called Carrion Comfort that I recommend for people sick of the Twilight nonsense.)

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posted by Monty at 08:20 AM

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