“Should men read different books than women?” Rebecca Solnit posed this question on Lit Hub yesterday, in response to an Esquire list from a while back titled “The 80 Best Books Every Man Should Read.” Esquire included only one book by a woman (Flannery O’Connor) and Solnit proposed a new list, “80 Books No Woman Should Read.” At yesterday’s National Book Awards ceremony, the Cut caught up with Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jennifer Egan (one of the evening’s presenters) and asked for her thoughts.
While she understands Solnit’s anger, she says doesn’t necessarily agree. “To say this person’s a man, therefore he’s gonna like A, B, or C, to me that’s part of the same sort of reductive thinking that leads to a list of 79 men and one woman,” said. “I feel like we all sort of need to move outside of that a little bit.”
Egan did, however, have plenty of supplemental books by women for Esquire’s list: Hilary Mantel, Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing, Lorrie Moore, Kathryn Harrison, Jean Rhys, Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison. “How about Lauren Groff? I’ve had men recommend her work to me. So I think there’s really a lot more crossover than a list like that makes it seem.”
For the question of books specifically for men, she turned to her husband, David Herskovits. “My favorite novel? Oh, Emma,” he said. “Pride & Prejudice is more perfect, but Emma is greater.”