Reading More Women Accidentally on Purpose

This year is almost halfway over, and yet I’ve only read one (!!!) book by a male writer: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.  Of course, this doesn’t count the assigned reading for my British literature class this past semester, which represented the sexist literary canon of the nineteenth century.  I did buy some books by men, but I haven’t picked up any of them because a book by a female author always piqued my interest more!  Even all of the advanced copies I’ve requested have been written by women, with two exceptions: A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen and Ohio by Stephen Markley.  But the best part is the fact that it’s purely accidental; I didn’t plan on focusing on reading women writers this year, it just happened!

It’s difficult to capture why my reading has changed this way.  In high school, I adored young adult writers like Sarah Dessen, Morgan Matson, Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer E. Smith, etc., but I enjoyed John Green just the same.  My tastes definitely catered to the women writers but never intentionally.  (I think the majority of authors in the young adult genre are women, but that’s a story for a different day.)  As I matured into reading fiction and literary fiction, I started with Celeste Ng, Donna Tartt, and Hanya Yanagihara (some of the heaviest hitters, I know).  I also read Anthony Doerr and Nathan Hill, but my excitement for new books was mostly for those written by women.  I picked up Michael Chabon, George Saunders, and others for the immense praise and recognition their novels received, but I’m not sure I would’ve been that excited for them had they not been so revered by my bookish friends.  And I certainly wasn’t excited before their releases, like the dozen or so early copies I’ve requested by women writers so far this year.

Of course, it’s important to mention I have absolutely nothing against male writers, or any kind of writer in that case.  I’m currently reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne and I’m absolutely loving it.  To me, the writing and the story are the most important aspects of a book.  However, I also think it’s time to support every type of writer imaginable, no matter the gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc.  Because wouldn’t it be boring if every book we read was by a straight white man?  If we don’t support diverse authors, then we’ve got multiple problems on our hands: (1) that literature is valued by how white a person is, (2) that not every reader will be able to identify with a book, and (3) that writers will see only white men succeeding in the book world, and they’ll stop writing if they don’t fit that description.

All of this brings to mind the #ReadMoreWomen campaign by Electric Lit, which aims to diversify our reading lists and start a conversation on our white-male ideals on literature.  It mentions the sexism behind The New York Times’ “By the Book” column, which, if you aren’t familiar, is basically a series of mini interviews with writers.  Most of the writers featured are men, but lately they’ve been trying to up their game and include more women (which is something you really shouldn’t have to work that hard to do…).  Recently, I read Lauren Groff’s By the Book, and I think her thoughts perfectly sum up the importance behind reading both male and female writers.  Groff says,

“When male writers list books they love or have been influenced by- as in this very column, week after week- why does it almost always seem as though they have only read one or two women in their lives?  It can’t be because men are inherently better writers than their female counterparts . . . And it isn’t because male writers are bad people.  We know they’re not bad people.  In fact, we love them.  We love them because we have read them.  Something invisible and pernicious seems to be preventing even good literary men from either reaching for books with women’s names on the spines, or from summoning women’s books to mind when asked to list their influences.  I wonder what such a thing could possibly be.”

I’ll leave it at that.

What books have you read by women lately?  Have you noticed any changes to your reading tastes?  Let’s chat!

xx,
Hannah

Published by

Hannah and Her Books

Book person.

13 thoughts on “Reading More Women Accidentally on Purpose”

  1. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I just went and checked. 76 out of 93 of my books this year are by female authors. Of the male authors I’ve read, most were nonfiction (books by Obama, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Trevor Noah, Neil deGrasse Tyson). I definitely gravitate toward female authors and I think it would be really interesting to see where I end up with this at the end of the year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too! I just kind of noticed one day and now I want to make it into more of a purposeful effort. I’ve only read 12 books so far this year, and 11 of those have been by women. I’m planning on reading a few more books by men, but, like you, I also find myself gravitating towards female authors. I can’t wait to see what your stats end up being!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Funny timing for this post… I was just thinking today about how many more female authors I’ve been reading lately. I joined a book club back in November that’s all woman and the book choices skew heavily towards female authors, and I think that has swayed my reading a bit, even outside of the books I’m reading specifically for book club.
    I’m very into sci-fi and fantasy, and it seems those genres (more than most) are often dominated by male authors. Neil Gaiman is probably my favorite author, but when I think about all the books that are closest to my heart, there are a lot of female authors. J K Rowling and Madeleine L’Engle were largely responsible for turning me into a bookworm as a kid.
    I think it’s so important to be somewhat conscious of what voices you’re allowing into your life and making sure there’s some diversity there. It would be so easy to read books almost exclusively by white male authors without ever thinking about it, and there’s so much perspective missing there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well-said, Jenna! I rarely read sci-fi/fantasy; I’m drawn to contemporary and literary fiction, so it’s a little bit easier for me to read women writers. A few of my favorites are written by men, like THE NIX by Nathan Hill, but the majority of my favorite authors in the genre are women- Celeste Ng, Meg Wolitzer, etc. and I’ve read multiple works by them. When I look back and see what kind of authors got me into reading, I’d say the majority of them were women, including J.K. Rowling! But like you said, it’s important to diversify what we’re reading. I love the idea of putting myself into someone else’s shoes, and I think that’s exactly what we do when we read books by different voices. Thanks for your thoughts, Jenna! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved The Nix. That was one of the few books by a male author that my book club read, and the majority of my book club absolutely hated it. They found it overly long-winded and dull. Glad to find someone else who loves that book. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the YA genre is a flush with female authors, which is why a lot of (YA) book bloggers tend to happily find that there are so many female voices and influences these days that are women. Speaking as a woman, I think that’s why it’s easy to not even think about most of the time about the gender of the author (I read mostly works written by women, but am not at all consciously opposed to male authors).

    I have wondered about the /average/ young adult man and how likely they are to feel at home in the YA community though. I know there are male book bloggers/vloggers, but I feel like they’re more likely to be outliers (for whatever reason).

    This post is a good reminder that in more established (“prestigious”) literary/classical canon it is a more male-dominated space and we should be aware of supporting authors of identities that have been shut out of specific genres in the past. I think it does go both ways, though. In YA we should also make sure to celebrate the male presence (which, fortunately, I think we do automatically)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lori! I completely agree with you 100%, especially your thoughts on young adult men. I don’t read much YA anymore, but when I did most of the authors I read were women, and most of the main characters were female. Maybe that’s just the books I picked out, or maybe there is an issue with male representation in the YA genre! It certainly works both ways.

      When I started to move out of YA and into the more “adult” genre, it was a complete flip, with most of the books recommended to me being by a man or with a male main character. That’s why I was taken by surprise when I realized the majority of “adult” fiction books I read/wanted-to-read this year were by women!

      Overall I think representation for all groups in all genres is important and it’s been an issue for a long time, but I think authors/publishers are finally realizing this and it’s finally starting to change! Thanks so much for your thoughts Lori!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been so good at reading mostly women in the past couple of years, and like you it wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice, I just get much more excited about female authors. I just checked and only 10 of the 56 books I’ve read so far this year have been by men, so that’s not bad! That said I ADORE John Boyne and I’m so happy you’re loving The Heart’s Invisible Furies, that was hands down my favorite 2017 release.

    Liked by 1 person

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