Discussion: I’m going to read more women

I have decided. I will read more books by women. I will consciously pick up more books by women. This is actually something I decided at the start of the year.

You may wonder why. You may ask why it matters. You may ask if it matters.

I think it does. So why am I suddenly writing about this? Actually, it’s not so sudden. This post has been in my drafts since January. I know! Somehow, it’s such a sensitive topic.

There are many, many reasons why I’ve decided this. Long story short: in an ideal world there would be no gender bias, but this is not an ideal world, and there is gender bias.

For example, the yearly Dutch Book Week gift novella will be written by a man for the 13th time in a row (and out of 90 authors so far, only a little over a dozen were women). J.K. Rowling’s name is a pen name because the publisher was afraid young boys would be wary to read a book by a woman. We see more men than women translated into English or almost every other language. Follow any course on literature anywhere, and literature written by men will almost definitely outnumber that written by women (unless you are following a class on ‘Women’s Literature’). And while people – both men and women – keep suggesting male authors are more successful because men ‘simply write better’, we’ve got a problem.

Now, why am I going to read more books by women? I felt unable to explain this – I wish there was no need to consciously do this – until I read a wonderful piece titled Women in Fantasy: Thoughts on Disrupting the Circle. Seriously, read it!

I want to disrupt the circle.

Essentially, if I read more books by women, I can talk more about books by women, I can review more books by women, and I can inspire more people to read these books. To read these books not because they are by women, but because someone is talking about them. Someone needs to be talking about them.

Anyway, I also figured I’d examine my own reading stats. I went into this not really knowing what to expect, but my suspicion was sadly true.

In 2012, I read:
21 books by female authors versus 38 books by male authors
16 different female authors versus 31 different male authors

In 2013 I read:
16 books by female authors versus 37 books by male authors
14 different female authors versus 25 different male authors

Not happy with the results. This year is somewhat better, so far I’ve read:
19 books by female authors versus 25 books by male authors
18 different female authors versus 23 different male authors

Why still more men than women this year? Remember that MOOC that I’m taking? Yep… For this year I am aiming at 50-50 though.

Now, not all is bad out there in Bookland. Lately there is – thankfully – a lot of attention going out to the topic of gender bias, but also diversity in books (both author diversity as well as character diversity). We get beautiful hashtags like #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and reading events like LGBT Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. The book community on the whole is pretty amazing, if you ask me! And thanks to a colleague I am stumbling into articles such as the aforementioned Women in Fantasy, and this round table discussion. The two articles focus on sci-fi & fantasy but are relevant to almost every genre imho (read them, they are good!).

Finally, let me say: I don’t think anyone should feel forced go around picking female over male authors in order to ‘set things right’. And I don’t necessarily think the reason for this gender bias is because people consciously choose NOT to read female authors. But I do think it’s important to at least be aware of what’s happening.

So, what do you think? Do you notice any bias? Do you think there should be a distinction, like with special ‘women’s prizes’? Do you consciously pick what you are reading, and do you read more male or female authors? 🙂

(Disclaimer, in case anyone is having doubts: I am not against books by men, I am not avoiding books by men and men are not the devil. I have to state this silliness because I’ve had this discussion before.)


  1. I couldn’t agree more with you. For centuries in Western Countries, women were not allowed to be writers: Georges Sand is a french female writer, Jane Austen also used a pseudonym. As a result, whatever you read before the 20th century is more likely to be written by a man. Things have changed, but not fast. It’s still hard for a woman to be recognized for her talent or her skills. There is still a lot of prejudices out there.
    I started MapleBooks a few months ago only so it’s hard to make stats but at the moment, there are exactly 5 female authors (including the review for next Monday) and 5 male authors featured on the blog. It’s not too bad but I’m still not so happy with the reviews for the World Tour: it is harder to find female authors in foreign countries. Maybe they are less translated than men? It’s already hard to find translations for Asian or African books, another prejudice to fight…
    Angélique recently posted… Monthly review – June 2014My Profile

    • Exactly exactly! Things have changed, so considering that the male to female author ratio is now (wild guess) approximately 1:1, why are women still pushed to the background? The only way to bring change is to future more women in the spotlight.

      I definitely notice it with Asian literature. Men are much, much more often translated to English (or Dutch) than women.

  2. I notice the bias and I agree with you about the bad stats for women, but I often don’t see it when I pick up books to read. I don’t pick up (or do) a book because of the author (unless it’s someone I either love or hate and am biased that way), I pick it up for synopsis or most often the cover. I am bad at this for even getting into the whole ‘looks’ thing but if the book draws my attention, I cannot help it. Or when someone recommends something, which is the whole blog deal.

    You made me went to check my stats (as I had a feeling I read more female authors (due to high saturation of them in YA) and here it is:
    This year alone I read 36 books by women to 13 by men, and the 2 I am reading right now (both adult, not YA) are by women as well. And that’s 35 different women and 12 men.
    I’m too lazy to check back into 2013 and ’12 but I think women win with me always. 🙂 Even when I was a kid, I read Rowling and Blyton and Grant (I think she was) and Christie, all women.

    It’s nothing conscious, just the books that interest me besides the author.
    Ula @ Blog of Erised recently posted… Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Blogging ConfessionsMy Profile

    • Before, I didn’t see it when I picked up books either but my stats were skewed one way when I took a close look. I do think this happened mostly because I was just – unconsciously – more exposed to male authors.

      I think it’s pretty awesome that you just so happen to read more women 🙂

      I don’t know, I don’t think anyone reads 50-50 and I don’t think it’s necessary either. I just know that on the whole there is bias and I will fight it in my own way 🙂 There are definitely very famous and successful female writers out there but I still believe women are not always getting equal recognition. We’ll see what happens!
      (Meh because someone told me again that women should write better books if they want to win more prizes and be read more and respected more 🙁 )

    • It might depend on which genre you read the most. YA and romance seem dominated by female authors. Many other genres, like Science-Fiction and Horror, are known to NOT welcome female authors.

      Even in “pure” literature, you can see it: in France, the prestigious Académie Française has 38 members. Only 6 of them are women. These Academicians are elected. It shows something.
      Angélique recently posted… Omens by Kelley ArmstrongMy Profile

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