A Year of Reading Women

Science fiction and fantasy are genres in which women are traditionally under-represented. People (usually men) seem to be labouring under a false (and bigoted) impression that women can’t write genre fiction (other than in the crime and romance genres.) Lots of parenthesis in that sentence, so we’ll try to simplify it. Most men are bigoted against female writers. There. That’s more to the point.

Anyway, not being a bigot myself, I had never thought about how many women authors I read, nor in fact what gender the authors that I read are. Never crossed my mind.

Until my wife pointed me to a website (A Year of Reading Women) and asked how many female authors we had on our shelves. I came back with a depressing answer: three. Yes, three, a single digit number. On a bookshelf with more than two hundred books on it. Heidi (my wife) said that she was doing this ‘Year of Reading Women’. And I knew that I would do it too. Forget the Bechdel Test. This is the real test of fiction and of your bookshelf.

“But who are the three authors?” I hear someone in the background mumbling. Firstly, don’t start sentences with ‘but’. The three female authors who grace my shelves are Anne McCaffrey (of Dragonriders of Pern fame), Anais Nin (Little Birds) and Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire.)

And so, I thought, it was time to consciously make a change.

Time to set out and read more female writers, to have my own ‘Year of Reading Women’.

I am going to read one book a month (at least) by a female writer, and write reviews of their work.

Here’s my list:

  1. Little Birds Anais Nin
  2. Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K le Guin
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  4. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever – James Tiptree Jr
  5. China Mountain Zhang – Maureen F McHugh
  6. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  7. Dragonflight  Anne McCaffrey
  8. Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth
  9. vN  Madeline Ashby
  10. Maul – Tricia Sullivan
  11. Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynn Jones
  12. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  13. Finnikin of the RockMelina Marchetta

Yes, I do realise that there aren’t thirteen months in the year, that last one will take me through to the end of next year. Oh, and James Tiptree Jr is the perfect example of what I’m talking about when it comes to female authors being sidelined in genre fiction (“It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.” – Robert Silverberg)

I’d love for people to join in, and so I’ve added a linky below, write a blog post, write some reviews, add the links.

Let’s make 2014 a year of reading women!

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18 thoughts on “A Year of Reading Women

  1. Well, from your list, I’ve only read “Howl’s Moving Castle” (which is juvenile, but delightfully quirky), but my book shelf has plenty of female authors, mostly because I LOVE fantasy-romance, a sub-genre that I think has been dominated by women writers. (One exception that immediately springs to mind is Isaac Marion’s “Warm Bodies”, which I only just finished. A Zombie romance… Weirdly enjoyable.) 😛

    Good luck with your year of reading women!

  2. Great project! You might also enjoy The Lathe of Heaven by Le Guin. It’s a sci-fi.

  3. Someone on Twitter recommended Sherri. S Tepper too.

    • bluebellina says:

      That was me!! Sherri S Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country is the one I remember the best. For a while there I read a lot of her stuff. Must dig them out and have a reread! You just may like her.

  4. […] is the second book I’ve reviewed for my Year of Reading Women. The first was Conrad’s Fate, by Diana Wynne […]

  5. […] adding Anais Nin to my Year of Reading Women is cheating – I’ve read her before, and I loved her before. And, seriously, when […]

  6. […] disappointed to say I’d never read this book until now, for my Year of Reading Women. I’d heard of it, of course. A United States that has fallen, the President assassinated, […]

  7. toppersbooks says:

    I love this idea! I actually just thought that my reading list had lately been too full of white male authors, so I went out and bought Toni Morrison’s Beloved. But I am off to count how many female authors are on my shelves now!

  8. […] ever read (although I’ve got the feeling I’ll be saying that more and more often as my Year of Reading Women keeps […]

  9. […] my Year of Reading Women I’ve already started reading books from outside my usual genres – and Sarah […]

  10. […] of how long it would have taken me to pick up one of her novels if I hadn’t have started my Year of Reading Women. I read The Handmaid’s Tale as one of the first books of my challenge, and I loved it. Now, […]

  11. […] just gone out and bought a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, as part of my Year of Reading Women – I loved Oryx and Crake so much that I kinda needed to buy this book as soon as possible. […]

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