I’ve just set myself a new challenge

You know those moments when another blogger takes time to comment on your blog, so you head over to their blog for a look around and an hour or so later you’re still looking around? That happened to me this morning with Weezelle’s Penguin Edition blog.

I have ambitions with this blog, but I’m only a month or so in, and still thinking about what I want it to be. Originally, I was inspired by The Reader’s Room, which has become an important online community for me. I don’t have time to join a book club out there in the world of breathing the same air as others, and The Reader’s Room has filled that gap for me with its thoughtful reviews, its encouragement of discussion and its fun reading challenges. And now I’m inspired by the Penguin Edition for similar reasons.

I’m starting to think that I want this blog to be a space where I not only do a brain dump of my book thoughts, but where the people who follow this blog feel free to share their book thought brain dumps too, and where I might be able to interact with and promote authors, bookshops, other interesting readers. That’s a long way off yet, though.

Anyway, my new challenge. Weezelle’s post about the Stella Award in Australia set me thinking. It feels like I read a lot of books written by men, and that a lot of my favourite authors are men. LibraryThing tells me that over all the authors in my catalogue, 66.3% are male. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but as a feminist it feels like I should be reading more books written by women. Because little drops of water combine to make a river, and maybe if I add more little drops to the demand interface, those capitalist publishers might add more women writers to the supply interface. My aim for the rest of this year is to ensure I read at least one book written by a woman every month and to try to make it a different woman’s work every month. Maybe even a not yet established woman writer’s work.

Now, I do love a statistic, so I’ve just checked my LibraryThing tag for ‘read in 2016‘. I’m actually doing better than I thought this year. I have an almost 50% split. In January I read books by 5 different women (out of 13 books read), in February 3 (out of 6), and this month 3 (out of 5). Out of all of those, only 2 were recent debuts, but 6 were by women I hadn’t previously read works by.

So, not a difficult challenge, but one that will make me think about my book choices in a different way.

And now I will step out of my comfort zone and ask: will you join me? Will you try to read at least one book by a woman author each month, or even this year? (I refer you to my About page for guidance on my preference for polite debate.)

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20 thoughts on “I’ve just set myself a new challenge

  1. Thank you for the kind words about our blog! I will join you although it is probably cheating since it’s something I already do. I track books according to author gender and racial/ethnic background to force myself to read more diversely. I don’t read exclusively by gender but I do make an effort to buy books by women authors and then borrow books by men.

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  2. This is interesting! I just had a quick look and my library is 54% female, 46% male. I actually thought it’d be more female than that!

    I’ve read 11 books this year so far, 6 of which were by female authors. I’ll definitely try to make sure I don’t go a month without reading a female writer, though – I imagine I don’t evenly distribute them throughout the year!

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    1. Isn’t it? I wonder if my stats are skewed because I’ve read a lot of classic literature. Or because I love crime novels so much. I can’t find a distribution that looks at proportions of books read by male and female authors. I’ve read loads of Agatha Christie, Margaret Atwood, Anita Brookner, Jane Austen, for example, but they only represent 4 hits on that particular LT stat.

      I’m going to work on getting my LT library closer to 50-50.

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  3. I can’t tell you how much this warmed the cockles of my heart. Under-repesentation of women (pick your field!) is something that always disconcerts/ inspires/ fascinates me – I’m so pleased you’re with me on this voyage!

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    1. I’m in the odd position of my profession (archivist) having more women working in it than men (I don’t know the official figures, but wherever I’ve worked it has been 66% female or more and on my MA course of 10 only 2 were men), but the proportions switch at the top (I’ve worked for 6 organisations, but only for 2 women bosses). I also work in a museum where, again, there are more women employees but more men in the top jobs. Early in my career I was told that the choice for a job was too close to call on qualification and ability, so they chose the man because they didn’t have enough men in the office and wanted to even it out. A bit galling. So yes, I’m definitely on board with fighting the under-representation of women, and also with stopping the bullshit of men being viewed as natural leaders who can even vault over the gender biased demographic of their chosen sector to the top!

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    1. If I may be so bold as to suggest a great book blog? I really like 101 books – he mixes up his reviews with really interesting ‘other stuff’ (like ‘guess the book from the emojis’). I always take time to read his posts.

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      1. I’d add Brontë’s Page Turners (she’s funny and thought provoking), It’s A Long Story (I think you might have similar reading taste), and Muggins Here (a good mix of reviews and opinions). I’m now going to check out 101 Books!

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  4. Like Jen, I’ve been doing the same thing for a couple years now, not necessarily with a specific time frame involved. I didn’t think that would be enough to counter all the years before that, when I’m sure it was skewed more heavily male, but I was pleasantly surprised that my LibraryThing stats are 43.51% male, 56.49% female. I try to do the same thing with authors of color now, too, which is even harder. Great challenge!

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    1. I’m hoping that giving myself a time frame will mean my approach to reading more widely will change. I’ve been a prolific but narrow reader most of my life. It might go hand in hand with my completer-finisher personality, but I tend to ‘collect’ authors. I find someone I like and then have to read everything. Part of my challenge to myself is to shake myself out of that by actively seeking out new women writers, as well as to show support for women writers proactively. I do read books by women, but I do it haphazardly!

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