Diversifying Your Reading

I read a blog post, a few months back, about how we generally purchase and consume authors who are the same gender as us. The argument went that if you were a man then it was likely you’d buy 90% male authors and only 10% female writers.

The study implied the opposite was also true: a female reader would procure 90% female authors, but just a mere 10% male wordsmiths would end up in her shopping basket. As you can probably guess both of these situations are problematic. They’re challenging for authors who wish to include male and female perspectives in their works but primarily only read one side of the continuum, and an issue for those of us grasping at empathy without a solid foundation of the other gender’s point of view.

So, I took up the challenge. I became more conscious of my book choices and looked more critically at the author’s name and life experiences before walking the tome to the till.  At first, I thought it was going to be easy. I mean, it’s just swapping out one fantasy author who is male for  one who is a female. Simple, right?

It wasn’t though. Perhaps you’re smarter than I am and have already guessed the problems, but one of things that I didn’t expect was that the blurbs on the back of the (white) male novels seemed much more in line with what I wanted to read. There was some violence, a little bit of banter and a rip-roaring ride. Tragically, the blurbs on the back of female writers’ works (or, at least the ones I perused) were more focussed on relationships. In some cases, forbidden love.

So, it took more work to find female authors that I thought would be interesting. Or (at the very least) informative for me to read. How have I done so far? Let’s see:

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (M)
Jarhead by Anthony Swofford (M)
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (F)
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (F)
Tesla by W. Bernard Carlson (M)
The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi (M)
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (M)
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (F)
Capital by Thomas Piketty (M)
A Geek in Japan by Hector Garcia (M)
On Book Design by Richard Hendel (M)
All Over Him by Casey Chase (F)
1001 First Lines by Scarlett Archer (F)
The Kingdom by Jennifer M. Barry (F)
Elis Royd by Ron Sanders (M)
Evolution’s Child: Earthman by Charles Lee Lesher (M)
Winter by S.D. Rasheed (F)
Deadly Love by Wesley Robert Lowe (M)
Invasion of Kzarch by E.G. Castle (M)
Once Upon a Time at the End of the World by S. Elliot Brandis (M)
The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holdberg (F)
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (F)
The Purposeful Classroom by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (MF)
Something Like an Autobiography by Akira Kurosawa (M)
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (F)

  • Total Number of Works: 25
  • Total Number of Male Only Works: 14 / 25
  • Total Number of Female Only Works: 10/25
  • Total Number of Male & Female Works: 1 / 25
  • Percentage of Female Authors Read: 40%

That’s super depressing. Even though I was working on reading more female authors (ones I thought would be interesting!), I still selected males 60% of the time. And you have no idea how many male-written works I put back on the shelf because I checked their names and realised I’d picked up yet another masculine-filled tome.

In my head, I’d thought I’d done so well (definitely over 50%!) so I relaxed a little and purchased the rest of this year’s reading. Here’s the full list:

The Chieko Poems by Takamura Kotaro (halfway) (M)(G)
2001: A Space Odessy by Arthur C. Clarke (M)
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith  (M)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemsin (F)
HMS Ulysses by Alistair Maclean (M)
Forbidden Knowledge by Stephen R. Donaldson (M)
Basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Corporate)(MF) (G)
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (F)
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride (F)
Wool by Hugh Howey (M)
Ready Player One by Ernest Clive (M)
On Writing by Stephen King (halfway) (M)
Pacific Rift by Michael Lewis (M)
Acid Row by Minette Walters (F)
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (F)
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (M)
Speculative Japan by Various Writers (MF)
The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture (MF)
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (M)
Understanding Iran by William Polk (M)
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (M)
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (F)
Distortion by Jesse Duplantais (M) (G)
Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello (M)
Unmerited Favour by Joseph Prince (M) (G)
Body of Secrets by James Bamford (almost finished) (M)

  • Total Number of Works: 26
  • Total Number of Male Only Works: 17 / 26
  • Total Number of Female Only Works: 6 /26
  • Total Number of Male & Female Works: 3 / 26
  • Percentage of Female Authors to Read: 23%

NOTE: (G) indicates that the book is a gift from a friend / family member.

Are you super bummed? I’m super bummed too. The worst part is that I’m winning. I’m 13% ahead of the average.

Even if I’m generous to myself and say that I include the female co-authors while removing the gift books that still only makes it 8/22. Or 36%.

*Sigh.*

I’ve got a long way to go.

Still, how about you out there? What’s your reading list look like? Can you recommend any great female authors to me that I can snatch up before I start buying next year’s books?

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3 thoughts on “Diversifying Your Reading”

    1. I know what you mean. I’m hoping this exercise (life-style choice?) will lead me to find some female authors that I become addicted to.

      Isabel Wilkinson’s The Warmth of Other Suns (although non-fiction) is exquisitely written though. I’d read anything of hers in the future.

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