September 09, 2008

My Top Nine Chick Lit Novels

All right, then. Since we’ve established that I cannot resist the siren call of the girly novel, no matter how much I pretend to disdain them, then I might as well face up to facts and just sing their praises already. (More analysis/defense after the list.) Here, then, are my ten favorite chick lit novels (not including books by Jane Austen, George Eliot or the Brontes, which are, when you get down to it, entertaining books about single women and social mores …). In no particular order:
  1. Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding. This isn’t necessarily my favorite on this list, but I liked it, and as it is widely (though, some will argue, erroneously) considered to be the seminal work of the chick lit genre as it exists today, it stands to reason that it should occupy #1 on this list.

  2. Watermelon, by Marian Keyes. Watermelon actually came out a year before Bridget, so maybe this should be tied for #1, actually... This is, I believe, the first chick lit book to which I succumbed. Claire, our heroine, gets dumped by her husband as she lies in the hospital, giving birth to their first daughter.

  3. 3. Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin. Despite the author's tendency to malign Blue Devils and pump it up for Wake Forest... ad nauseum... in every book she writes... she gets my vote. I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing, really.

  4. Good In Bed, by Jennifer Weiner. I already wrote about this book... just this week. But this one makes the list because it made me cry.

  5. Welcome to My Planet: Where English is Sometimes Spoken, by Shannon Olson. I already wrote about this one, too, about a hundred years ago.

  6. The entire Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Evanovich has scads of dedicated fans. Our girl Stephanie is an unlikely bounty hunter with big hair and a pet hamster. She juggles a couple of hot men while conducting her bounty-hunting activities, which are more often than not slapsticky antics involving a host of goofball characters. These books are actually really fun. Light, funny, silly. Ms. Evanovich is perhaps the godmother of what has come to be known as the “tart noir” genre (chick lit mysteries). Start with One for the Money.

  7. As long as we’re including entire series, then let’s add the Gossip Girl series by Cecily Von Ziegesar. I know these are ostensibly for teenagers, but they are hard to put down. I have only read a couple of them, and I might just have Gossip Girl on the brain due to my love for the TV show (the pretty, pretty people! the bright and shiny clothes!), but I think these books are fun and pop-culturally significant, so they make my list.

  8. The Nanny Diaries, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. This book was so commercially successful that the first-time authors were given a heady $3 million advance for their second book, Citizen Girl. Which they reportedly had to return, when Citizen Girl turned out to be a dud.

  9. The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger. Being an assistant is hard.

Coming up with a Top Ten list is also hard (which is why I stopped at nine.)

So, I’ve been thinking. What I like about these books, I think, is that the authors put their characters through (mostly) realistic situations, situations that a lot of women can relate to. I think this is what draws women in. Stories about dating, weight loss/gain, pregnancy issues, family pressures, embarrassing moments, laughing with friends – these are all things I easily identify with. And these are not necessarily frivolous things: Many traumatic issues (infidelity, family, anxiety, loss of jobs/boyfriends/family members) are handled in the stories, but handled with some humor. They are, in general, upbeat – not altogether emotionally draining. It’s not that the characters are silly, really. Just because there’s a hole in the ozone layer, doesn’t mean a woman can’t also be sad about - say - breaking off her engagement, you know? I can be excited about a new president and new shoes.

Let’s consider the demographic. The past decade or so has shown that there are more single women, making more money, living on their own, than ever before. So it stands to reason that there would be a genre of literature reflecting that trend. Look at Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and The City (the latter of which, of course, was a book to begin with). All wildly popular during this era, and all exhibit chick lit characteristics: Single people in urban settings, often relying on a tribe of friends rather than family members, dealing with real life issues with humor.

So I have decided I stand in defense of the genre. Books don’t have to be depressing to be good. Why am I being so defensive?

Any other candidates?


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Elle said...

I will defend chick lit! I think it is very unfair it often labelled as a "trashy" read because it's not as serious as other fiction, but as you say, it deals with real-life issues most of us face at one point or other in our lives. Yes, these issues may seem trivial (in comparison to wars, famine and disease), but they are still real issues - chick lit explores these and makes the reader feel better through the delivery. What's wrong with that!?

Here's to chick lit!