February 18, 2020

Adding Gender Diversity to Your Reading List

“A few words about my sexism.

Nerd that I am, I keep a book diary, i.e., a list of the 40 or 50 books I read and listen to each year. In 2016, while perusing said list, I made a discovery that startled me: There were almost no women on it.

That year, I plowed through 46 books by the likes of Stephen King, Walter Mosley, Bruce Springsteen and Carl Hiaasen. But the only woman was Tananarive Due — and she’s a friend.

Intrigued, I checked my diaries for other years and most showed a similar result: 40 to 50 books, one to three of them by women. This bugged me, so I began talking to women in the book world about it. A few pointed out that female authors are less likely to be reviewed or publicized, meaning that I, as a reader, was less likely to even be aware of them.

Maybe that explains some of it. But I still believe that at some subconscious level, I was also choosing not to read women. Understand: I feel no obligation to peruse novels about sexy vampires, kinky businessmen or any of the other stuff traditionally considered “chick lit.” But when women write in fields that interest me — history, historical fiction, spy novels, biography, etc. — I should be reading them.

And I was not.

Yes, there is a point here larger than my personal reading habits.”

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