Insightful post by Vox Day on “What Men Read” or, more precisely, what boys read.
What is funny is that, when I was younger, I would not have thought it was insightful. I would have thought it was obvious. Everyone knew what kind of stories boys liked to read: action, adventure, exciting.
But, I think some people have forgotten. Vox does a nice job of putting what has been forgotten into words.
What Men Read
I was doing an interview a few weeks ago for Women of Bad Asserywhen I started to wonder if it was actually true that men – and young boys – refuse to read books written by women or starring women. It wasn’t actually hard to disprove it – JK Rowling may have used her initials to hide her gender, or so I have been told, but I read quite a few other books by women when I was a child. The gender of the writer alone had no influence on me. Nor too did I automatically dismiss a book starring a girl.
What did have an influence was school. The vast majority of the books I was forced to read at school were boring. Teachers – both male and female – would select books that bored me to tears. Thankfully, by then I already had the reading bug. Boys who didn’t, who only knew reading as a chore, didn’t read when they didn’t have to read. They found it a tedious process – and preferred watching television instead.
So … what did all the books I liked have in common?
Most of them featured adventure. The characters would be pitted against a remorseless enemy or given a task to do. It didn’t really matter if the task was large or small, a thinking enemy or a force of nature; all that mattered was the challenge, the urge to overcome and triumph over one’s circumstances. The characters didn’t simply exist, the characters had something to do.
Harry Potter works, at least for the first five books, because it fits neatly into this pattern. Harry escapes the mundane world and flies straight into a world of magic, but gets pitted against a string of deadly foes. All of his books feature Harry being challenged – Goblet of Fire being the most dramatic example – and overcoming his challenges. Everyone who wants to argue that Dumbledore is a poor headmaster because Harry has to deal with the problem-of-the-book is missing the point. The series works because Harry is the one who deals with the problem.
This is true for a lot of my childhood favourites. The Famous Five and The Secret Seven all feature mysteries that have to be solved. Hood’s Army and The Demon Headmaster all feature battles against deadly enemies. And all of them are exciting reflections of the way young boys think. They want adventure.