Friday, 12 June 2015

Random thoughts about books and authors

A lot of tweets in my time line have been about sexism lately, and not just from the @EverydaySexism feed.  Fuel was added to the fire this week when Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, called for segregated laboratories as women were just too distracting to work with, and cried too much.  I may have oversimplified his points here but like a lot of people he made me very cross.  The comeback on Twitter were great with people (men and women) posting photos of themselves at work in the scientific world with the tag #DistractinglySexy.

I am lucky in the way that I have never felt discriminated against for being female but I have regularly experienced sexism, probably from people who are unaware their behaviour can be thought of as such.  For example I am a keen photographer and I am looking to buy some new equipment in the next year or so.  Mr Norfolkbookworm and I went to a camera shop and although it was me with the good camera around my neck, trying new models and asking questions the salesman repeatedly spoke only to M and handed him all the cameras to try.  Little things like that happen far too often.

However I am not sure how I feel about one response to this from the book world.  Recently an author I admire made the 'provocation' that 2018 should be a year when only women writers are published.  This is in response to another study that has shown that books about women are less likely to win book prizes.

I am what you could call a prolific reader, from my journal I can see that so far this year I have read 81 books.

46 of these have been by male authors.  Now as I am studying Shakespeare and other dramatists from the late 16th Century I thought I'd take these out of the totals...

Thus so far this year I have read 68 books, of which 33 have been by men.

And if I am honest I am quite happy with that.  I read a book because it appeals to me not because of the gender of the author.  In fact due to another project that I'll talk about later in the year a further twelve books I've read this year have been selected for me and I've had no say on the gender of the author and again this has had no bearing on my views of the books.

To me a book is either good or it isn't and that has nothing to do with the author's gender, it is about the subject.  I like historical fiction, 16th century plays, and Greek and Roman classics - these are traditionally by men and about men and I know my life would be poorer.

I think that as women we do need to pull down barriers and make sure that sexism is relegated to a thing of the past but I am not sure that publishing female authors only is the way forward. I'm still thinking about this a lot and these are just two of the thoughts going around in my mind...

The book trade has always seemed a heavily female dominated industry to me and yet the books are about men...

Are there more books about/by men because as a rule women read more and will read widely where as men need encouraging to read....

For those interested my book stats at the nearly half way point in the year are:

  • 81 books read
  • 46 by male authors
  • 33 non fiction books
  • 15 plays
  • 11 books in translation

many thanks to my friend Sam @samruddock who blogs here for really making me think about this with a random tweet about his reading habits.

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