The hashtag #readwomen2014 was started by writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh as an attempt to counteract what she describes as the marginalisation of women by top literary journals. I came across the tag at random some time in January, and used it a few times in Twitter. I thought it a good thing to raise awareness, but didn’t really think about it. Posting a picture of my March 2014 Reading Pile, which happened to be solely female authors, made me curious, however. I had the impression that I read male and female writers more or less equally, but I didn’t actually know whether that was true.
I went to my past book lists and counted the authors by gender.
- 2007: male 30, female 16 (out of 46 books total, 46 authors total)
- 2008: male 25, female 18 (out of 43 books total, 43 authors total)
- 2009: male 25, female 17 (out of 42 books total, 42 authors total)
- 2010: male 24, female 22 (out of 42 books total, 46 authors total)
- 2011: male 27, female 18 (out of 41 books total, 45 authors total)
- 2012: male 35, female 17 (out of 43 books total, 52 authors total)
- 2013: male 18, female 9 (out of 27 books total, 27 authors total)
I’ve counted every author once, so a book co-authored by two men and a woman gave two male authors and one female one for my tally; that’s why the number of books may be smaller than the number of authors totaled. There were also a few books without identifiable authors. They were omitted from the gender count but included in the book count.
It was a really interesting exercise. First of all, apparently my reading hovers at a pretty steady average of 40-something books a year, or a book every ten days or so. Last year, 2013, is an embarrasing exception, a book every two weeks on average, but it probably stems from starting a business. (I hope I’ll do better this year. I don’t think I read enough as it is!) Second, the amount of female authors on my reading menu varies between a third to a half of all authors. It’s lower than I thought, I must admit. I’m glad I took the trouble to find out for sure.
In the spirit of #readwomen2014, I think I’ll consciously read more women authors this year. Here’s my start:
January, two out of four books by women:
My current re-reading pile is all women:
And three out of five for the rest of the spring: