August 25, 2010

Reading Women

What I’m Reading Today: I wanted something fun, so I’m rereading a bit of The Hobbit.

In a great post in the Atlantic, Chris Jackson talks about the recent kerfluffle by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, who were criticizing the NYT for favoring white male darlings. He segues to talking about reading women writers.

A friend had recently asked Chris: When was the last time you read fiction by women?

That got me thinking about my reading habits. I assume that I read both men and women, but I really don’t know, so I decided to do an unofficial count using the books I’ve mentioned reading here on the blog since the first of the year. Do I favor male authors in my reading? As a woman author, I should be paying attention to this. Put my money where my mouth is.

First, here are the books I’ve read cover to cover.

Books by women
• My novel manuscript
• A friend’s novel manuscript
• A.M. Holmes The Mistress’s Daughter
• Alyson Hagy’s Ghosts of Wyoming
• Louise Erdrich’s Shadow Tag
• Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy
• Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking

Books by men
• Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
• Thom Jones The Pugilist at Rest
• William Kittredge’s The Best Stories of William Kittredge
• Steve Almond’s Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life
• Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach
• Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn
• Sam Shepard’s Cruising Paradise
• Rusty Barnes’s Breaking It Down
• Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
• Julian Rubenstein’s Ballad of a Whiskey Robber

Books by both men and women
• Anchor Anthology

Aack! I do favor men! I read three more books by men in the last eight months than by women. This was without any conscious effort to steer it one way or another.

Well, let’s look at something else. A lot of what I read is just tasting books. For example, I tasted A.M. Holmes a couple of years ago before I finished it this year. I’ll usually eventually come back and finish a book later. So let’s see the books I dipped into, sometimes just a page or two, sometimes a lot further.

Books by women
• Eudora Welty’s collected stories
• A friend’s collection of novellas
• Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves
• Lisa Genova’s Still Alice
• Allison Amend’s Stations West
• A CJ Cherryh novel (don't remember which one)

Books by men
• Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian
• John Dufresne’s The Lie that Tells the Truth
• J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit
• China Mieville’s Kraken
• Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
• Mark Spragg’s Bone Fire
• Fyodor Dostoyevski’s The Brothers Karamozov
• China Mieville’s The City & the City
• Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
• Nathan Englander’s For the Relief of Unbearable Urges
• John William’s Stoner
• Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin
• Maurice Gee’s Going West
• A friend’s memoir manuscript
• Edward P. Jones The Known World

Books by women and men
• Scribner’s Anthology
• The first couple of pages of about forty novels by both women and men, for craft
• NewYorker’s 20 Under 40 stories
Best European Fiction 2010

Aaaack! This paints an even worse picture! Six books by women to fifteen books by men. When I dabble, I dabble a lot with men. :-)

And this doesn’t even mention the books I’ve bought that I haven’t touched yet.

Okay, vowing to mend my ways here. I’ve come clean. I’m going to make a concerted effort to read more women.

(This is not to mention a preference for white writers, writers from the US, and other biases I have. I MUST READ MORE WIDELY.)

Questions for the Day: How are your reading habits? Do you favor one group? Do they look exactly like you?


Brad Green said...

The most disturbing element of this post is that you didn't finish Stoner!

Tamara said...

Oh, I know!! I'm kicking myself. His phrasing is so dead on, so wonderful. Just lovely. I don't remember what distracted me. Sigh.

Pembroke Sinclair said...

I'm wondering if it's not a bias/preference for people to read only men or women, but an availability thing. Unfortunately, publishing is still a male-dominated profession, especially in some genres. For example, romance is typically viewed as dominated by females, while scifi and horror is ruled by men. Women authors take on male pen names for a greater chance to get published (or, if a man wants to write romance, a female one). Perhaps the next count you should do is going to a bookstore and figuring which books are most visible to buyers and who wrote them.

Tamara said...

Good point, P! Which is crazy sometimes because it's about perception of what a scifi or horror author is "supposed" to be. Good to interrogate our biases.