The “Man Book” Prize

August 12, 2009 at 9:57 am | Posted in Book Blather | 3 Comments

Recently I described something as a “man book.”  My point was instantly comprehended, though I realized afterward that I wasn’t entirely sure what would make me describe one book as a “man book” and not another.  Then it occurred to me that, hey, if there’s a Man Booker Prize, why not a Man Book Prize?

What is a man book?  It may be a man book if it has:  tanks, helicopters, hand grenades, aircraft carriers, martial arts, elusive sexy women,  soldiers, sports, explosions, or the Mafia.  Ditto spies, prisoners of war, mysterious men in suits who are not cute, car chases, or any lengthy technical descriptions of anything electronic or mechanical.  Come to think of it, any technical specifications, acronyms, or numbers may qualify your text as a man book.

Man books probably do not have:  tea parties, quilts, babies, shopping, descriptions of shoes, or brand names of any kind of clothing or accessories that are not made of Kevlar.  Ditto names of colors other than black, olive, chrome, or khaki.

The cover may give away whether you’ve got a man book or not.  Is there nothing on the cover but the title and author’s name?  Possibly a man book.  Is it hot pink?   Probably not a man book.

For fun, I thought I would choose the first “man book” I could think of and contrast its opening line with something from a different sort of book.  Here is the opening line of The Hunt for Red October, by the very famous Tom Clancy:

Captain First Rank Marko Ramius of the Soviet Navy was dressed for the Arctic conditions normal to the Northern Fleet submarine base at Polyarnyy.

Here we see that the initial discussion of fashion is immediately ameliorated by the introduction of the submarine base.

Here’s another one, from Corsair by Clive Cussler.

No sooner had the squadron sighted the fortified walls of the Barbary capital than a storm struck suddenly, forcing the ketch Intrepid and the larger brig Siren back out into the Mediterranean.

Wow!  We’ve got military units, nautical terminology, and a storm, all in one opening line.  Pow!

I wanted to give examples from, say, a romance writer, and Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts came to mind, but their books weren’t searchable on Amazon.  I think you know what I mean, though – if the cover is illustrated with a sweet flower-bedecked cottage, and there is no helicopter in flames falling on it, it probably isn’t a man book.  Wedding dress?  Almost certainly not a man book.

I also wanted to award a Man Book prize, but the sad truth is, I don’t know enough about this type of fiction to do it.  All I know is that the award should be presented by Chuck Norris.

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