Book Club

In defense of “chick lit”

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

May 10, 2023

What started out as a random book thrift in Vancouver, Canada turned into one of my favorite reads of the year.

Throughout my reading years, I’ve learned a thing or two about my preferences when it comes to books. It turns out, I’m a simple creature and only require a few things to give any title a four-star rating. 

Those requirements are the following: interesting characters and at least a little bit of romance. 

Now, what do I mean by “a little bit of romance”? I mean, if there is just one fleeting moment where I get the slightest hunch there might be something else going on, I’m sold. Even if I’m alone with that theory, it’s good enough for me. 

Notice I didn’t say “have a plot” or “give me a new perspective on something,” because, no. I’ve read many books where nothing happens, at all — they are thoroughly plotless — and I have enjoyed myself all the same. 

What I need is to watch interesting people fall in love — or at least pine after one another. 

For a long time, I was embarrassed to admit that, which might have something to do with society liking to make fun of women for having interests and shaming us into hiding them, but I’ve already written that article. I like a little romance. So be it. 

But what I also like in books, which isn’t mandatory but always welcome, is humor. I love a book that makes me laugh. And one genre that does, without fail, is one formerly known as “chick lit.” 

Reaching peak popularity during the 90s and early 2000s, chick lit books were contemporary stories centered around the lives of young women, typically between their 20s and 30s, trying to navigate the throes of life. 

Known for their sarcastic humor, chick lit tackled the everyday problems of womanhood, relationships and the working world with a snarky joke here and a crude remark there. 

Today, the term “chick lit” is frowned upon, much like its cinematic cousin “chick flick,” having taken on sexist and borderline derogatory connotations. Some folks refer to this genre as “women’s fiction” today, but in the end they’re both fiction for women by women. 

Some popular titles you might recognize are “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Sex and The City,” both made into popular movies in later years. 

While I don’t typically default to this style, after an exhausting semester of reading important, impressive literature and making thoughtful, profound interpretations of them followed by strenuous class discussions and lengthy papers, all I wanted was to read something silly. 

And that I did. 

Over winter break, I set to tackling my to-be-read stack of abandoned books and read women’s fiction books to my heart’s content. 

The first one I read was “Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, published in 2007. 

Taking place in early 2000s London, the ancient Greek gods are down on their luck and living in a run-down flat, struggling to make ends meet. Artemis is a professional dog-walker, Apollo is a chamartin psychic and Aphrodite is a tele-sex worker. Their immortal lives get hairier when a mortal, Alice, signs up to be their house cleaner.

What started off as a random thrift find in Vancouver, Canada turned into one of my favorite reads of the year. Five out of five stars. 

A much more recent novel I picked up this year was “Really Good, Actually” by Monica Heisey, one of the screenwriters for the popular TV series “Schitt’s Creek.” 

Our protagonist, Maggie, got married young and, coincidentally, divorced young, too. 

Reeling from the recent split from her husband, “Really Good, Actually” accompanies Maggie through the stages of grief, failing mental health, attempting to enter the dating pool and finding meaning in life after loss. 

I’m not lying when I say every other line in this book makes a joke — sometimes subtle and sometimes giggle-worthy, kicking-my-feet funny. Heisey’s debut novel is a delight. 

This article doesn’t have to be a call to reclaim the “chick lit” title but is more about reminding you to read whatever you like and getting you some quality recommendations.

Schutte can be reached at [email protected]