Men do big ideas, women write stories

3quarksdaily points to a Guardian story where the author, Alison Flood, wonders if there’s a gender divide between writing books on big ideas, and writing stories:

Julia Cheiffetz, blogging at publishing website HarperStudio, dubs the genre “big think” books – making serious non-fiction subjects accessible and popular. “The point is, all of them promise access to a club whose sole activity is the exchange of ideas; all of them promise, however covertly, to make us feel smarter. And all of them are written by men,” she writes, also singling out The World is Flat by Thomas L Friedman, The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

“It is hard to know whether women are better at telling stories than propagating ideas (I’m thinking of Susan Orlean, Mary Roach, Karen Abbott), or whether the intellectual audacity required to sell our hypotheses about the world simply isn’t in our genetic makeup.”

The real story to this post, though, is happening in comments. Commenters have proposed explanations for the seeming disparity ranging from women are not encouraged to speak out, to publishers being less likely to accept a “big think” book proposal from a woman. Additionally, commenters have also pointed out “big think” books in the bestseller lists by women, that the Guardian article author “seems” to have missed in her cataloging of big books.

From what I can see in weblogging, I would say that the commenters to the story have the right idea: not encouraged, not seen. Sadly, also as demonstrated in weblogging, pointing out the problems doesn’t bring about any change, either.

Then there’s my recent look at Seth Godin’s Tribes. I know that a fairer review would come from reading the book, rather than just the Kindle sample, but from looking at a video Godin gave in reference to his book, I also know my opinion of the book wouldn’t change. These books may typically be written by men, but I don’t think that’s necessarily an insult to women, or a flattery to men.

A positive side effect to the story is that I now have several new books to try out, starting with Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. I also found Bookninja.

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