10.30.2014

BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | GENDERED READING


The world of books is never boring. Every week I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 

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Whether we think about it consciously or not, gendered reading is important. There are many articles on bookish sites around the web that discuss inequality in the genders of published authors and how our own reading choices impact the gendered landscape of publishing. Personally, I've never thought much about the gender of authors I read. Not on purpose, anyway.

But the other day, as I was writing about the shelves of "read" books that sit proudly next to my desk, I started noticing the authors' names emblazoned on the spines, idly thinking about how many of them were male or female. And then I began counting. The numbers surprised me.

After all the discussion of male prevalence, I fully expected to find more male than female names on my shelves. What I found was that my reading history (for the past two years, at least) was about 2.5 to 1 female to male.

There are a few potential explanations for this. I don't read very many classics, classics being a famous roll call of "dead white dudes." I have a shelf of them, but I rarely dip into them. I tend to read more contemporary fiction - and, recently, a lot of contemporary young adult. I don't know if there are more women authors published in this genre, but it seems to me there are a larger number of them, and I seem to have brought a lot of them home with me. And there are other, more obvious reasons. We tend to be attracted to authors and stories we feel a commonality with. Being a woman myself, it's likely I'm subconsciously drawn to female authors. Or perhaps all those Women's Studies courses I took in college seeped into my psyche leaving me with a gender bias.

I don't know which of these  - or, indeed if some combination of all of them - informed my reading choices. What I can tell you for sure is that out of 71 books on my read shelves, 49 were written by women. 20 were written by men. And two were written by a woman/man writing team.

What about you guys? Have you noticed a gender bias in the authors whose books you read? Do you try to balance your reading? Share your thoughts in the comments!

2 comments :

  1. I DEFINITELY have a bias toward female writers... I'd be interested to go through my bookshelves and find out the exact number, but I bet my numbers are tipped worse than yours! Sometimes I do wonder if this is alright, but I just can't deny that I like read stories told from a woman's point of view—I usually find them easier to relate to, as you said. There are a some notable exceptions: I love Crime & Punishment by Dostoevsky, and a few others... but just looking at my list of reviews, it's almost all women.

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    1. Though I am in favour of diverse reading, I don't think it's good to do it out of a sense of duty or guilt. I mean, sure, push your boundaries a bit here and there, see if you like something new, but don't force it. My general perspective on reading is that as long as you're reading, read whatever makes you happy! If you never read a single classic or only read YA or like to read something different every week or read the same book over and over again... well, that's entirely your call. As for gendered reading, my own personal bias is that if the numbers are going to be skewed, I'd much prefer that they be skewed in favour of female voices. Not because I hold individual male authors responsible for a systemic and societal bias, but because... well, solidarity, sister. At the end of the day? Read good books. Whatever your definition of "good" may be!

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