I’ve been keeping track of every book I’ve read since the beginning of 2008. I think I have a fairly broad reading appetite, split between literary fiction and genre fiction. Out of curiosity, I went back to compare the gender divide between male authors and female authors.
Since January 2008 I’ve read 241 books by 139 different authors. 120 of those authors were male. 19 of those authors were female. And of those 19 authors:
2 were assigned coursework for university, which I wouldn’t have read otherwise
1 was a free advance reading copy I got from my bookstore job, and wouldn’t have read otherwise
3 were Booker Prize nominees in a year I decided to read the entire shortlist
1 was a childhood re-read
3 were editors of short story or comic anthologies
2 were Quarterly Essays
That leaves only seven female novelists that I chose to read of my own volition: Naomi Novik, Ursula K. Le Guin, Susannah Clark, Hilary Mantel, Harper Lee, Margaret Atwood and Maureen F. McHugh. (Interestingly, of those seven, five are partly or wholly speculative fiction writers.)
Even if you assume there’s an equal proportion of male writers that I only read as part of university coursework or Booker nominations etc, that’s still a huge disparity. Not sure what to make of it. Am I sexist, or is publishing sexist?