It was International Women’s Day last Tuesday. Yay women! And yay for awesome posts about all the cool things created by women. I found a great post circulating on Tumblr where it told you some common men’s authors and suggested a book by a woman you might like instead. The only problem? I didn’t actually like any of those original books by men. In fact, I sort of abhor them. Good plan, not great execution (if your reading tastes are like mine).
So, in that spirit, I decided to put my own compilation together. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. There are a billion women books I love that don’t have an easy male equivalent, and same for men books, so I feel as if this is, at best, incomplete. Left off on the man side are Damon Runyon, John Steinbeck, and Gregory McGuire, to name a few. I’d have really loved to work in some Shannon Hale, Robin McKinley, and Mary Stewart on the woman side, but no dice. Still, below are some of my favorite men authors, and a book by a woman that’s similar. And just for the record, you can’t go wrong reading ANY of the books on this list, gender notwithstanding.
Like David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day?
Try: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson
Although Sedaris’ book mostly takes place in New York or rural France, and Lawson’s book takes place in Texas, they share much. A fondness for bad taxidermy, a willingness to create farce from their family situations, a predilection for terrorizing their significant other. Both have a wry wit that it’s impossible not to guffaw at. Both are banned reading for me before bed, because I can’t put them down; nor can I stop shaking the bed while Brian sleeps because I’m laughing too hard.
Like JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring?
Try: A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin
LeGuin’s book is more languid and unurgent than Fellowship, but it is still a world in which wizards have immense power and are struggling to defeat unknown evil. They both have epic quests, sorceresses, and ideal villages which they must leave. Ged is haunted by his own mistakes, and Frodo is haunted by others’. Frodo has an elven canoe, Ged has the Lookfar. There are differences, but the worlds feel familiar, ancient, and big. They’re excellent.
Like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, Summer 1956?
Try: A Summer to Die, by Lois Lowry
Lowry’s book is not as funny as Keillor’s, but they both share a nostalgia and an innocence that feel right together. Gary is dealing with adulthood, the passing away of many of his childhood ideals, becoming a writer, with the unfair things that happen to his cousin Kate. Meg is dealing with growing up awkwardly, attempting to measure up to her perfect sister, adapting to a new rural school, and with her sister’s fatal leukemia. In both there is a loss of innocence, and a sense of claiming a more adult self as both characters move forward in life. They’re both full of hope.
Like Rudyard Kipling’s Captain’s Courageous?
Try: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
I mean, I LOVE Kipling something fierce, despite his flaws. And the book I like most of his is Puck of Pooks Hill, which is like nothing else I have ever read. So instead I have sought to pair his Captain’s Courageous with another book about New England. Both characters struggle to survive in a culture they don’t understand without the skills to thrive. Both learn of loss and hard work. Both feature ships prominently. This might be a stretch…
Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles?
Try: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Both Christie and Doyle are known as the quintessential mystery writers of their day, and for good reason. Both of these mysteries take place on rural estates in England, and both will keep you guessing for days as to what’s really going on. Bonus? Styles is the very first Poirot novel, so you can use your little gray cells to solve the mystery.
Like Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men?
Try: Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
I mean, nothing’s as funny as the Nac Mac Feegles and their drunk, Scotsman-like ways. But Jones does a pretty good job of lending that farciful attitude to Wizard Howl, and poor Sophie who has to take care of him. Both books are chalk full of all the stuff you always hear about in fairy tales, but they’re used in new and delightful ways. The chaos wraps up nicely at the end for all of them, too.
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
Girl Book: Tithe by Holly Black
Dark worlds where the modern scene is definitely more sinister than you imagined it? Check, for both novels. Instead of Richard and his London Below, Kaye has the fairy courts that placed her in her mother’s home in exchange for the changeling baby they stole. She’s not saving a bleeding Door, she’s saving Roiben, knight of the Unseelie Court. Both are fighting dark things they don’t understand. Both become part of worlds they don’t understand and can’t quite navigate.
So, happy belated International Women’s Day. And enjoy your reading.