Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reading by Gender

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

I hate it when other people try to dictate what I should read.  I'm tired of people telling me I should be ashamed of reading YA because I'm an adult, or turning up their nose at romance or dismissing SF/fantasy as "rocket ships" and "elves". So earlier this year when I saw an article going around Facebook called I Challenge You to Stop Reading Straight White Cis Males Authors for One Year my first kneejerk reaction was anger. No, I darn well will not stop reading some of my favourite authors just because they're men.

[NOTE: Most of my anger comes from the title of the article rather than the content. If the article had been called Challenge Yourself to Read more Fiction by People of Colour and LGBT I would have been intrigued instead.]

Then I got curious. The title of the article implies that ‘everybody’ is reading ‘too much’ fiction by men. How much of my reading was written by women and how much by men? (I’m leaving the ‘straight and white’ part out of the equation, because I often don’t know the race and gender orientation of the writer. In fact, some of the names could be men writing as women and women writing as men for all I know. Certainly, someone reading Robert Galbraith’s bio can be excused for not guessing that J.K. Rowling was the author.)

So far in 2015 I have read 27 books by 17 men:  Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Tony Abbott (5), Stephen King, Kelly McCullogh, Brandon Sanderson, David Weber, Jim Hines, Lemony Snicket (4), Jim Butcher (3), Rich Burlew, Brent Weeks (2), Ben Aaronovitch, Alex Bledsoe, Dave Duncan, Joe Abercrombie and Robert Rankin.

Does that seem like a lot or too much? Does it seem unbalanced?

It’s not. I am a voracious reader. I also read 53 books by 42 women this year: Diana Pharaoh Francis, Tanya Huff, Jayne Castle (2), Mary Pope Osbourne (5), Carrie Vaughn, Jody Wallace, Kristin Cashore, Shawna Reppert (2), Jenny Schwartz, J.R. Ward, Meljean Brook, Annie Nicholas, Cassandra Clare, Jeffe Kennedy, Nalini Singh (2), Regan Summer, Suzanne & Melanie Brockmann, Anne Bishop, Rebecca Zanetti, Mary Robinette Kowal, Gini Koch (5), Judith Graves & Dawn Dalton, Angela Korra’ti, Eleri Stone (2), Patricia Briggs, Shelly Laurenston, Seanan Macguire, Shannon K. Butcher, Veronica Scott, Marcella Burnard, Catherine Asaro, Jo Walton, Sharon Lynn Fisher, Catherine Jinks, N.K. Jemison, R.L Naquin, Katherine Addison, Faith Hunter, C.J. Cherryh and Leigh Evans. Which firmly tips the balance the other way.

Statistically, one-third of my reading is written by male authors and two-thirds by women. As I said, I read mostly SF/fantasy and romance (and prefer books with both elements). Romance is primarily written by women (the exception being m/m romance, which is written by both men and women). My SF/fantasy reading is split more evenly between the sexes. So is my YA/MG reading.

Based on a much smaller sample size, my husband’s reading seems to fall out at about 70% men, 30% women. I would guesstimate that my mother’s reading is 95% women authors. Should my husband read more women authors? Should I, and my mother, read more books by men?

After some reflection, I’ve decided that I’m okay with my reading choices. I am not going to boycott male authors, but neither am I going to go out of my way to read 50-50 down the gender divide.

Bottom line: I believe people should read books that they enjoy. By all means, sample widely, try all the genres, read books by people of every colour, gender and orientation, then, once you discover storytellers you like—read them.

How do your reading tastes fall out?


  1. Exactly! I haven't done the math, so I don't really know whether I read more from male authors or female authors. And I don't really care. I like to read good stories, no matter the gender, race, orientation, religion, pet-choices, etc. I read across a lot of genres, too. I just enjoy reading. But if someone limited my choices based on some idea they had, I would enjoy it a lot less. So I won't let them. =o)

    Thanks for the great post.

  2. I found out in high school that having an assigned book to read made it less enjoyable. My brain perceived the assigned book as homework rather than fun.

  3. Interesting post! (Happy to have been on your reading list BTW.) I'm guessing I read mostly books by women in the past year because I tend to read romance genres pretty much, but I pick by the book/plot/topic, not the gender of the author. No limits!!!

  4. I agree! Reading is a hobby and we should read books we enjoy. I think we should be open to reading anything written by anyone, though, so long as it appeals as a *story*, not because of who write it.

    I haven't done the math, either. But I generally don't consider the gender, race, orientation or other bias of an author when I choose a book. I just read books I want to read. :)

    1. Yes, exactly. Read what you want to read. Nobody should have to feel 'guilty' for not reading the 'right' books.

  5. Hmm... I check my list. I'm not as far along as you are (damn, woman!) as I've only read 39 books so far in 2015, but all are by female authors. Go figure! But I'm happy to have made your reading list!

    1. Some of the books are short chapter books that I'm reading to my kids. 39 is pretty respectable!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...