Here’s one of my biggest problems with the Christian publishing industry: Books written by women are largely marketed only to other women.
I realize that this problem is much bigger than various marketing departments—it is indicative of the evangelical culture in general—but it is a problem.
Books written by men range in topic and intended audience. Yes, some male-authored books are marketed specifically to male readers (specifically books on how to be more “manly” for Jesus by riding motorcycles and getting cross-themed tattoos) while others have a wider appeal, readable for both men and women. We don’t often think it’s weird for women to read books by male authors (truthfully, if that happened, male authors would starve to death because women read significantly more than men do, but that’s another topic for another blog post).
On the other hand, in the Christian publishing market, it is a rare thing for men to seek out and read books authored by women. Last year, I was reading an excellent book by Shauna Niequist entitled Cold Tangerines. A friend of mine saw that I was reading this book and said, “Isn’t that a girl book?”
It wasn’t his fault; it’s the marketing and the culture. I told my friend that the book had been written by a woman, but it was really a book for anybody.
In the past year or so, I have discovered several great female writers, and I always feel disappointed when I recommend these authors and their books to my male friends only to be responded to with the question, “Aren’t those girl books?”
Can we please agree to stop thinking this way?
There are too many powerful voices currently participating in the global conversation to isolate ourselves from half of them. So I want to specifically recommend two books that were written by women and have titles that may lead some male readers to skip them. But what I want people to know is that these books need to be read by everyone—especially men.
The first book I want to recommend is Rachel Held Evans’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Like I said, the title may confuse some of us enough to keep us from reading this book, but don’t let that happen. This book explores many misconceptions of how women are spoken about in the Bible and releases us all (men and women) from unnecessary and unhelpful expectations.
The second book I want to recommend is Sarah Bessey’s recently published Jesus Feminist. Not only is Bessey one of the best wordsmiths I have encountered in a long time, she fearlessly treads into a conversation covered in potential landmines, and she does so with an astounding amount of grace and poise.
Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey—along with Shauna Niequist, Sarah Cunningham, Susan Isaacs, Lauren Winner, Nadia Bolz-Weber and so many others—are adding their necessary voices to the ongoing conversation of faith and life, and I am so grateful that they are.
So men, here’s the challenge: You need to start reading books that women are writing.
It’s not just about equality or fairness—it’s about being part of a vibrant, relevant conversation. If you want to miss it, that’s your choice I suppose. As for me—not only for myself, but for my wife, my daughter, and my son—I will listen to these great voices, and I will continue learning from what they have to say.