7 Authors Who Prove Men Can Write Women Well

This year, so much attention has fallen on the gender divide in the publishing world. From Coverflip to gender balance in reviews to Rachel Posner "accused" of writing like a man (or just writing well), some people seem to have the idea that women write books for and about women while men write (more important books) for and about men. And women should maybe read the men's books, but no one need bother with "chick lit."

This, of course, is ridiculous. Not only can women write perfectly excellent books about anyone and for anyone, but men can do the same. Here we have seven amazing books by male authors who manage to do an excellent job with their female protagonists.

The Great Gender Divide?

This year, so much attention has fallen on the gender divide in the publishing world. From Coverflip to gender balance in reviews to Rachel Posner "accused" of writing like a man (or just writing well), some people seem to have the idea that women write books for and about women while men write (more important books) for and about men. And women should maybe read the men's books, but no one need bother with "chick lit."

This, of course, is ridiculous. Not only can women write perfectly excellent books about anyone and for anyone, but men can do the same. Here we have seven amazing books by male authors who manage to do an excellent job with their female protagonists.

'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden

Set in pre-War Japan, Arthur Golden’s award-winning novel follows one young girl destined to become one of the most celebrated geisha in the country. The story is amazing, and despite being a man writing about a courtesan, Golden gives his protagonist plenty of depth, insight, and agency.

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini’s second novel depicts the plight of women in his native Afghanistan with heartbreaking clarity. Focusing on Mariam, a largely uneducated woman raised in the countryside, and Laila, a city girl raised in a modern household, the novel manages to both uplift and devastate as it charts the trajectory of their lives in times of war and Taliban control. Yet the novel could not be half so powerful if Hosseini was not capable of portraying that self-evident yet radical idea that women are people.

'Game of Thrones' by George R.R. Martin

Okay, so technically there isn’t a main character in Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series. Or maybe there was, he’s just dead. But how can you not love the man who brought us Arya, Brianne, Circe, Katherine, and lets not forget the Mother of Dragons herself. Martin’s women all exist in brutally oppressive gender systems, true, but they each respond the them in highly realistic and human ways, using whatever power they can achieve.

'To the End of the Land' by David Grossman

This amazing novel by Israeli author David Grossman follows Ora, a housewife whose son has just re-enlisted in the army after his mandatory service was finished and is promptly sent away to a major military effort. Refusing to take part in the military system anymore and with the desperate idea that her son can’t die if she cannot be notified, she calls up a mysterious figure from her past and embarks on a hike from one end of the country to the other. Grossman’s account of motherhood and of being a woman in a military culture is so well done you’d never know he is a man.

'Maximum Ride' by James Patterson

Some of the most kick-ass women in literature can almost always be found on the young adult shelves (hell yes, Katniss Everdeen) and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series continues this proud tradition. Main character Max, leader of a group of kids with wings on the run from their scientist creators, is tough as nails, fiercely protective, and capable of dealing with just about everything that comes her way — even as she really wishes she and the flock could just peace out and live on a beach somewhere for a while.

'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro’s futuristic novel is a surreal combination of the ordinary and the strange that is truly unique. Amidst its astute observations about human nature and the pain of growing up, mixed with its disturbingly subtle dystopian elements, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the main character and narrator is female. After all, Ishiguro doesn’t make a big deal out of the fact it’s a woman telling this story, and isn’t that how it should be?

'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s masterpiece stands out as one of the few books of its time in which a male author managed to get a female protagonist right. The novel explores hypocrisy, infidelity, marriage, family, progress, passion, and everything in between, but it is still a story of a woman that still rings true today despite very different social context.