AAR Mini-Polls: Top Tens

Top Ten Chick Lit Titles

October 5, 2007

Chick Lit inspires some volatile feelings; over the past few years there have been several spirited threads on our forums about chick lit novels, how they take away shelf space from romance, how they are all the same, how - because they are published in trade format - they are expensive, and how they are all about branding. There's also a fair amount of confusion about just what, precisely, chick lit is. As a result, many of the ballots received in this particular mini-poll included the statement "I don't read chick lit". Lee, who tabulated this particular mini-poll, wishes those voters would "give it a try because they might be pleasantly surprised!" Yes, she's heard readers comment that they are all “about 20-somethings who drink a lot and sleep around.” But Lee would be first in line to say that's just not true.

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On the other hand, a great number of readers did submit ballots in this mini-poll. However, some ranked books on their lists that don't fit the definition of chick lit. So, what exactly is chick lit? Is it really women’s fiction? Or is it contemporary romance? Lee was tempted to answer that question by paraphrasing a famous quote by a Supreme Court judge, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . but I know it when I [read] it.”

Karen Templeton, who has written both contemporary romance and chick lit, believes that chick lit is "an offshoot of women's fiction, not romance, since not all chick lit has a romance thread." On the other hand, RWA gives a RITA each year for the "best novel with strong romantic elements," and there's generally a romance of sorts in a chick lit novel. But for Karen a fairly simple definition comes down to answering this question: “Is the story about the heroine, or about the couple? Is the romance the core of the story, even if there are subplots, or is it more about the heroine's (or more than one heroine's) journey?”

Some publishers have re-released books first published as “contemporary” or “women’s fiction” into new candy-colored hardcover or trade size books – hoping to cash in on the “chick lit” trend. After all, it worked when the original hardcover release for Bet Me looked more like a chick lit novel than a contemporary romance. And perhaps that's why Bet Me finished first in this poll, and also won as Best Romance in our annual reader poll, but also as Best Chick Lit/Women's Fiction. But is it really a chick lit book? Jennifer Crusie told us in a 2004 interview that Bet Me was going to be her last genre romance. That's sorta true, although she did participate in a paranormal romance book earlier this year also written by Anne Stuart and Eileen Dryer, but even before that pronouncement, Crusie had wet her feet in women's fiction waters - remember Fast Women?

As for the genre name “chick lit,” Lee likes to think it evolved from the term “chick flick.” And many “chick lit” books have been made into “chick flicks.” Bridget Jones’s Diary comes immediately to mind. Two movies were made from Helen Fielding’s chick lit books. The Wedding Date with Debra Messing was based on Elizabeth Young's book Asking for Trouble, and another chick lit book, In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner, was made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Did you know that Hilary Swank’s new movie (coming out in December) is based on Cecelia Ahern’s first chick lit book, PS I Love You? So if you’ve seen or plan to see any of those movies, why not try the books?

And so, as Lee writes, "here are the 'chick lit' (er, women’s fiction – no contemporary – oh whatever!) results:"

Bet Me Jennifer Cruisie
Bridget Jones's Diary Helen Fielding
Rachel's Holiday Marian Keyes
Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married Marian Keyes
Can You Keep a Secret? Sophie Kinsella
Confessions of a Shopaholic Sophie Kinsella
Something Blue Emily Giffin
Something Borrowed Emily Giffin
Good in Bed Jennifer Weiner
Welcome to Temptation Jennifer Crusie

The best of the rest:

The Boy Next Door Meg Cabot
Pride Prejudice & Jasmin Field Melissa Nathan
Every Boy's Got One Meg Cabot
Size 12 Is Not Fat Meg Cabot
Queen of Babble Meg Cabot
In Her Shoes Jennifer Weiner
The Nanny Melissa Nathan
Shopaholic and Baby Sophie Kinsella
The Year of Living Famously Laura Caldwell
Boy Meets Girl Meg Cabot Meg Cabot

We invite you to consider these questions and post about these poll results:

  • How do you define chick lit?
  • For those of you who said, "I don't read chick lit," after seeing these results, do you think you might change your mind?
  • Some of the authors above are from the UK and Ireland. If you voted for those authors, what attracts you to books set across the pond?
  • If you really really like chick lit - set anywhere - can you explain why you like it so well, and perhaps convert some fellow readers?

Lee Brewer, LinnieGayl, and Cindy Smith

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