May 15 2012 2:00pm

Dude, Where’s My Lit? The New Incarnation of Chick Lit Is...Dude Lit?

Ashton Kutcher — Dude, Where’s My Lit?Chick Lit follows a pretty consistent formula: The stories are about women who find themselves at a crossroads, or whose lives are in a slump, and how they take action and decide to deal with it. There are breakups, makeovers, different jobs, new friends, love, and funny situations. They are all about the journey to become a different and better person, and they are usually told from the heroine’s POV.

But what happens when all the ingredients for a great Chick-Lit story are there, but the main character is a guy? Lately I’ve read books whose main character is a man who goes through a self-discovering journey that make me feel like I’m reading a “Chickless” Chick-Lit story, or, as I’ve come to think of it: Dude Lit.

Attachments by Rainbow RowellIn Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, Lincoln, the main character, realizes that he’s over 30, living with his mom, hung up on a girl who broke his heart ten years ago, stuck doing a job he hates, and that his only entertainment is playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends. Worse of all, he’s falling in love with a woman he’s never met, but whose personal emails he reads regularly as part of his job monitoring employees’ possible inappropriate behavior. He figures that things must change because he’s unhappy, so he finds an apartment, joins a gym, and tries to figure out how to get the girl he’s been spying on for the past year.

I know what you’re thinking: “is this a book about a serial killer in training?” Believe me when I tell you that it’s not. Instead, what we have here is a sweet and caring man who let himself go, was a bit lazy and settled for mediocre, and has finally decided that it’s time to make some effort. In the process, he discovers who he truly is, gets the girl, and finds happiness. This book is romantic and sweet; after all, the hero falls for a woman without knowing how she looks. But that’s not the book’s soul, Lincoln’s journey is, and to a lesser extent Beth’s, since we also get her part of the story told in the form of emails.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Bro-Magnet is another great example.  It’s about Johnny, a guy who has an almost magical ability to make men fall for him, but who can’t get women to like him. He doesn’t mind that much, but when he meets a woman he really likes, he worries that she will hate him. So he decides to change who he is in order to fit what he thinks is the type of man women want. But it’s all a huge lie, which makes him wonder if she’s falling in love with the wrong person and how will she react once the truth comes out.

The Bro-Magnet is, first and foremost, a comedy. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t address some deeper issues as well—for example, the idea of being yourself and not faking something you’re not in order to be liked is present throughout the book. Johnny believes that the only way to get the girl is changing who he is, because there’s no way she will fall for the real person. But in the end he must decide if getting the girl is worth living a lie.

The Wedding Beat by Devan SipherThe last book is The Wedding Beat by Devan Sipher. Gavin Green writes a wedding column for an important New York paper. Usually heroes tend to be cynics before they meet the love of their lives, but that’s not the case here. Gavin is a hopeless romantic, and he even admits of dreaming of the perfect wedding and marriage since he was a kid. But here he is, 38 years old, and his potential bride just dumped him on New Year’s Eve. But he’s not as
heartbroken about losing the girl as he is about losing his plans for the future. Soon after, he meets a woman who perfectly fits his ideal, but he gets tongue-tied and ends up losing her as well. That’s when he decides to stop being passive and do something about it. While trying to find her, Gavin takes a close look at his relationships, his job, and his life goals.

One thing these books have in common is that their main characters tend to read like women. I know that the fact that the authors are women isn’t the problem because Devan Sipher is a man. And I wonder if maybe I’m so used to reading similar stories told from a woman’s perspective that it takes some time getting used to having a guy replacing them. I know that makeovers and perfect weddings aren’t typically associated with men, but that doesn’t make it unrealistic, just unusual. Happiness, stability and a reliable future are common goals for both men and women, so the idea of a hero actively pursuing those things shouldn’t be surprising.

I really like this dude-lit trend. After reading tons of romances where the heroine’s POV is the norm, reading a book where the main focus is on the male protagonist and whose POV is the only one we get  feels like a refreshing and nice change.

I also think that guys like the ones in the stories I mention are more likely to be found in real life. Yes, some of their antics are over the top, but there’s no one single alpha male in sight. These are regular guys trying to improve their lives and looking for love and companionship.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing more Dude-Lit. It’s a genre with a lot of potential, originality and humor.


I love talking about books just as much as reading them. I review Romance Novels on my blog Romance Around the Corner and you can also find me on Twitter.

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Anna Bowling
1. AnnaBowling
British writer Nick Hornby does a great job of writing what's been termed "lad lit." While his books often have romances in them, it's the journey of the narrator or narrators that take center stage. I'd recommend About A Boy (adapted into a movie starring Hugh Grant, which is also a big favorite) or Juliet, Naked, which does have one female narrator, but two male, so the male point of view is still predominant.
2. nath
Great post, Brie. I do think there's an emergence of dude-lit and good thing! I read Attachments and really enjoyed it :)

However, I'm not sure these books "read" like women. I think we're so used of reading about "alpha" heroes, jerk, etc. that when normal appears, we don't recognize it.

Anyway, I like to read about a man who wants a family, who wants to settle down. These issues are obviously not exclusive to women. Hopefully, there'll be more dude-lit books in the future :)
3. Shannon Curtis
I love a spin on anything, so I must admit, I find the concept of 'dude-lit' fascinating! Thanks for sharing, I'll be keeping an eye out for those books, just for a new reading experience!
Brie Clementine
4. Brie.Clem
@AnnaBowling: I like the term lad lit! Haven’t read anything by Nick Hornby but I’ve heard many great things. I really liked About a Boy but I wasn’t aware that it was based on a book. And now that I googled him I see that he also wrote High Fidelity and the script of An Education, a movie I really enjoyed. Thanks for the rec!

@nath: Thanks! That’s what I mean when I said that maybe I’m so used to one type of hero that when presented with a different, more real one, I’m just confused!

@Shannon Curtis: I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. If you’re in the US The Bro-Magnet is free on Kindle but I’m not sure for how long, though. Great oportunity to get it
5. Sharon Bayliss
Great post! I like writing from the male POV...not sure why, but I try not to psychoanalyze it, and I'm glad to see that others are making it work too.
6. willaful
I loved both Attachments and the Bro-Magnet and I don't recall ever thinking they read as if written by women. (A problem I did have with an m/m romance recently that everyone else loved, so go figure.) My husband is not a stereotypical man in many ways, so I like reading about other men who aren't.
7. Jill B
I'm not sure if it's a direct correlation, but the non-alpha male, guy perspective is one of the reasons I so enjoy "The Big Bang Theory" on TV. The vast majority of the POV is definitely male, though the more recent years have spent more time on the ladies.
Very few men are "worthy" of gracing the cover of a traditional romance novel, and yet still waters run very deep. I've been happily married to my own "Leonard" for more than 22 years. ;-)
8. Akalle
These look like fun. They actually seem marketed toward women--a sort of comfortable, boyish chick-lit. There's other 'lad lit' out there, more hard core, that's for a male audience and has themes that would make women more uncomfortable, I suspect.
Brie Clementine
9. Brie.Clem
Sorry I didn’t answer sooner! I subscribe to the post but for some reason half the emails went to the spam folder.

@Sharon Bayliss: I’m glad authors are writing more male POV’s. It gives freshness to the genre, maybe there are deeper meanings behind why we enjoy male POV’s but that’s for another discussion. Right now, I like it and want more ;-)

@Willaful: as I said, I think my problem had more to do with the fact that usually those type of characters tend to be women, so when I get a man instead, it takes some getting used to. Now I’m curious about m/m book you read.

@Jill B: of course they are related, all these non-alpha men are interesting, layered and refreshing, so they appeal to us regardless of if they are book heroes, or TV characters. And I think that real life romance heroes are more likely to look like regular people than super models.

@Akalle: these are certainly light books to go along with the Chick-Lit label (which tend to be light, funny stories and was my intention when I wrote the post). But there's no reason for darker stories to not go as well among female readers. I like Chick-Lit, but I also like more dramatic books. I don’t see how more hard core subjects would make women uncomfortable. What makes me uncomfortable (and angry) is the implication that women can only read fluffy books.
10. Akalle
@Brie.Clem: Yikes. I didn't mean women don't read hard core books. What I meant is that a lot of 'lad lit' is sexist and insulting to women.
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