Is it alright for men to read Jane Austen?

Ian Fortytwo

A Poet, Writer and eclectic Reader.
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As I get older I realise that thrillers and action paced books don't interest me anymore. That is why I seem to like Jane Austen novels, however is it really okay for men to read what is potentially a female type of book.

I would love to know what you think whether you are male or female.

I'm also considering reading the Bronte sisters and other female writers.
 
I remember at school we were given Jane Eyre to study. As a teenage boy, it didn't really appeal to read what appeared to be a romance novel. But I tried it, and I really enjoyed it; I discovered that there was much more to it than just a love story. Until you've given it a fair go, you'll never know! But great literature will always shine through, irrespective of the subject material.

I'm assuming that at the time of their publication many of these books (perhaps even the majority?) would have been purchased and read by men? Would anyone know if this was the case?
 
Read what you want to read, no such thing as a female or male type book.
I stopped worrying years ago about what others think of my reading material.

I agree.

The Harry Potter books were all re-issued with 'adult' covers. Was this to make them appeal to an adult audience, or to make the adult reader feel more comfortable when seen reading one in public? Personally I prefer the original covers and wouldn't care what anyone thought of my reading material.
 
There've been lots of men who were Jane Austen addicts. C. S. Lewis was one of them, and Kipling wrote a story (which Lewis thought Kipling's worst) about them called "The Janeites." Here are my Jane Austen stats:

Pride and Prejudice: 9 readings
Emma: 6 readings
Mansfield Park: 3 or 4 readings
Sense and Sensibility: 3 readings
Persuasion: 3 readings
Northanger Abbey: 1 reading
 
As I get older I realise that thrillers and action paced books don't interest me anymore. That is why I seem to like Jane Austen novels, however is it really okay for men to read what is potentially a female type of book.

I would love to know what you think whether you are male or female.

I'm also considering reading the Bronte sisters and other female writers.

One of the joys of reading to me is exploring new people, worlds, ideas and perspectives. It seems far stranger to not read something just because it’s written by a woman. Everyone has favorites and preferences, but the thought of limiting my reading to one gender, genre, era, culture, etc. sounds dreadfully dull and restrictive.

That said, Wuthering Heights kicks Austen’s butt!
 
I know a lot of men who read Austen—one of them considers himself an expert on her books, he has read them so many times. Interestingly, it seems to be that it is in the US where there is the largest overlap between SFF readers and fans of Jane Austen. I can remember that when I was younger most SFF conventions that I attended held Regency dancing in the evenings. It was interesting to see a favorite male science fiction writer dressed like a Regency dandy dancing a country dance with a woman in a Star Fleet officer's uniform, or a Regency lady dancing with a lizard from the original "V." When the books were first published, some prominent men, like the Prince of Wales, were among her greatest admirers. This has remained true in all the time between then and now. It is true that some men don't like her books; some women don't either. People like what they like. But some shy away from Austen's books because they think of them as romance novels. Austen's books are not about romance. Romance does come into it, but they are just as much about money and what can happen to those who don't have enough of it. But what they are really about is the society of the time, which Austen portrays both sympathetically and with a biting wit. They are a window into the past, and from a perspective that most people don't know that much about.

The Brontës have practically nothing in common with Austen. The books are far more sensational, and even further from romance (though some of the major characters do fall in love, or in some cases obsession). When Jane Eyre was published many reviewers admired it greatly but others found the book coarse and shocking. They hated Jane and considered her immoral. (Modern readers often find her a little too moral.)
 
[heavysarcasm]

This is not alright. Please stay where you are so the Man Police can come and question you in person about such deviant behaviour. Please have your man card ready and be aware we might have to revoke it.

Ya beeeep.

In fact, what's all this reading about anyway? Sounds a bit soft to me. Surely you could be watching some footie while playing pocket billiards. Man.

Now drink three lagers and belch a "Hail Danny Dwyer" to reaffirm your manliness.
[/heavysarcasm]

Read as thou wilt and if anyone actually reacts somewhat like the above, ignore them.
 
Why is it a female book? Because it focuses on romance? Because the protagonist is female? Can women not enjoy books with male protagonists that are more "action packed"?

I am a Scribbling male, and I've loved books by Daphne DuMaurier, which often focus on romance and a female protagonist. Jamaica Inn and Rebecca are excellent. The latter is one of my favourite books. Bronte's Jane Eyre is also great. Wuthering Heights is on my to read.

I've only read Sense and Sensibility by Austin and I didn't love it, but I'm not big on the film either. I've loved the pride and prejudice adaptations though; Persuasion as well. I still plan to give the books a read at some stage.

It has never crossed my mind that I should be embarrassed because these are "female" stories by female authors.
 
Of course it is! As others have mentioned, Jane Austen wasn't so much a 'romance author' as she was writing about the society she lived in. Yes, they often have a romance element to them, but that's, in large part, likely because of the huge pressure to 'make a good match' that existed in that period. It would have been weird not to include it. My brother enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and, not that long ago, he and his wife read Mansfield Park to each other.
 
I know we need to keep the focus on Jane Austen -- that's the thread title! But I have an impression that it's not all that uncommon for male readers to enjoy Georgette Heyer's novels, which I gather really are Regency romances. I have no firsthand knowledge on this.
 
Thank you for your responses. It is helpful to know that it is okay. I am also going to try and write a review of each book I read, it is something that I keep meaning to do for sometime. I am also going to have a go at reading Philipa Gregory. I know there are many different authors to read as well.

This is my way of doing something new in my life.
 
I'm rather surprised by the question - of course its 'okay'. I've only read Northanger Abbey by Austen, but have read and enjoyed novels by Charlotte and Emily Bronte, George Elliot, etc. Great stuff.
 
I've read Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, both wonderful writers. I've never considered them as writers for women only.

Hear, hear! May I share my Bronte stats?

Charlotte

Jane Eyre: 5 readings
Villette: 1 reading
Shirley, also The Professor: on hand, but still to read
Selected Letters: 1 reading

Emily
Wuthering Heights: 4 readings

Anne
Agnes Grey: 1 reading
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall : I read quite a bit of it but not all

Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte: 1 reading recorded -- I thought I'd read this twice, but I guess not. It is very good.
 
It's never crossed my mind that it wouldn't be okay to read stories by anyone from a gender other than my own or any book that appeals to me for whatever reason, even if it seemed to be aimed at female readers. In fact, when it comes to non-contemporary speculative fiction, I actively seek out stories by authors who are not white males as they're difficult to find given the industry was dominated by white males. I also read travel adventure books by female authors (like Dervla Murphy and Phoebe Smith) because TV adventure seems dominated by males.

I think it's important to read widely. I generally don't pay attention to an author's gender when reading a story, but I know over half my favourite stories are by female authors. I'd be missing out on a lot of great stories. Though I'm also aware it's a fact male readers are less likely to read stories from a female PoV than vice-versa.

So it's good to see you're going ahead! Kudos for asking and trying something new. (y)
 
you know, you're right...
but you should go further in your thinking
since i presume you are a male you really should only read books written by males.
and written in around your age
and written only by members of your own race
and sexual orientation
and political party
religious views
and sports affilliation
and don't forget a beer to acompany the reading before the game on tv


that was sarcasm if you're wondering
 

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