On The Subject Of Diversifying Your Bookshelves

Out of all the points I made during last week’s No-No-Misogyny-Fest (it’s like Lilith Fair!), I think the one that maybe generated the most conversation — pointed at me, anyway — was the notion that you might want to read more books by women.

A lot of the response was interesting. Some reasonable, some maybe not so much. Some folks felt they were gender-blind and didn’t want to read books with the gender of the author in mind. Some resented the idea that I was oppressing their bookshelves, as if I were personally coming to their houses and forcing some kind of literary affirmative action upon them (NEEDS MORE JANE AUSTEN). Some folks felt I was suggesting you should grab books by women regardless of quality or content or genre — just, y’know, run to Barnes & Noble and say, “I NEED CHICK BOOKS, STAT” and start grabbing books by them pesky lady-authors off the shelves and into your motorized book cart.

(What, you don’t take a motorized book cart with you to the store? Amateur.)

I’d like to unpack this a little, which means you may have to sit through a little redundancy. (It only stings for a moment.) It’s like this:

First, I’m talking more to writers than readers. Not to say this isn’t a valuable thought exercise for readers, too — but my feeling is that writers should be well-read.

Second, this isn’t about making your bookshelves a perfect Pie Chart reflecting the population diversity found in this country or any other. Further, you don’t need to make your shelves the United Fucking Nations, either. This isn’t about rigorous, enforced heterogenization.

Third, and this bears repeating: nobody is actually making you do this. Cool your nipples, twitchypants. Nobody’s burning your White Dude books. I have lots of White Dude books and, you know, hey, I like them just fine. You want a bookshelf full of nothing but Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME series in various formats and incarnations, more power to you.

Fourth, nobody’s saying you shouldn’t care about story or genre or content or the things you usually care about. This is about the very safe assumption that the type of books you like to read are probably written by both men and women.

Fifth, reading a book by a woman won’t turn your sperm into a slushy, sterile granita.

Sixth, and finally, this isn’t about feeling shame over your bookshelves.

I’ll retell the story here because, hey, whatever, IT’S MY BLOG I’LL DO WHAT I WANT TO, but it’s like this: about three or so years ago, before I actually had my own novel on the shelves, someone asked me who my favorite women authors were. And I was like, “Robin Hobb, Poppy Z. Brite,” and then I probably mumbled a third name because I couldn’t really think of that many. And when I went back to look at my shelves, it was pretty obvious why. My favorite authors were mostly dudes. And my not-favorite authors were mostly dudes, too.

And I thought, gee, that’s kinda sad. And maybe a little troubling. I always thought of myself as gender-blind, which seemed like such a good thing. Except, gender-blindness goes both ways — it means I might be blind to the other gender. I had an unconscious bias toward reading White Dude books. Which is maybe not the worst thing in the world…

…but it made me a little uncomfortable.

So, I set out on a purposeful mission to read more women authors.

Not some specific percentage — just, y’know, READ MORE OF THEM.

And it wasn’t just some crazy hair-on-fire grab-all-the-books-by-women — it was trying to find out what people liked or what I might like in the genres I preferred to read. And again, it led me to a wealth of wonderful writers — Lauren Beukes, Erin Morgenstern, Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Bear, Seanan McGuire, Kim Curran, N.K. Jemisin, Delilah Dawson, Cherie Priest, Gail Simone, etc.etc. — I’m forgetting some and had a long day at the zoo where I rode emus and stole lemurs and so you’ll forgive me if my brain is tired.

Point is, I’m much happier having discovered a wealth of great writers that I had possibly been unconsciously relegating to my White Dude blind spot. Maybe you won’t be, I dunno. But this isn’t about some neat little ratio, some nicely diverse percentage so that your bookshelves look good to your liberal hipster friends. It’s just about reading more widely, more completely. There is genuine value in reading beyond your comfort zone and outside your echo chamber — we sometimes should make an effort to read books by people with different experiences than us. That’s true whether it’s genre or gender or sexual orientation or race or whatever. (Non-fiction is particularly good for this.) No harm in trying, right?

Then again, maybe you already do this. And if so: high-five, what’s the problem?

All of this is, of course, IMHO, YMMV, you do what you like. I’m not your Dad.

The end.

*rides off on an emu with a lemur as a hat*

(See also: today’s guest post by Karina Cooper which covers similar ground.)

54 comments

  • Shout out to Robert Jordan AND Robin Hobb in one post? I knew I liked you. I’m currently re-reading The Farseer Trilogy. I read all of your posts this week on this topic and I think the idea gets clearer each time…maybe I’m a little slow on the uptake.

    However, I would like to thank you for listing some of the female authors you discovered. Maybe you’ve done it in the past and I missed it (I doubt I was stealing lemurs or riding llamas, unfortunately). But, as someone who doesn’t normally go to a bookstore and pick up a book randomly (no matter the gender of the author) without some sort of recommendation, I’m glad for a list of some lady authors that can get me started on spicing up my bookshelves.

  • I find this hits home with me even more than your other Lilith Fair posts. I absolutely agree that there is a stigma attached to women writers that our writing is especially for women only, like it’s expected that unless we’re tough biker broads we couldn’t possibly write something really edgy.

    I’m proud that I am the only female author being published this round with Books of the Dead Press. I’m proud of my writing style and don’t feel the need to make it more masculine or feminine to suit the needs of narrow minded readers, or more correctly, other writers. This is a lot of the reason why I also love Miriam Black so much. She is who she is, regardless of the gender of her creator.

    –Julie of the Raccoons

  • Cherie Priest is one of my favorite writers and favorite people in the world. Jaye Wells kicks a lot of ass, and Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie books, OMG, so fun, Chuck. You might dig those.

  • Here’s my story: I looked up one day and my bookshelves were filled with women. Like, not even “mostly women”, I mean: every book on my shelf belonged to a woman. And I was like, “Oh… hey. That’s… not what I intended to do.” I mean, I think everyone should have more books by women on their shelves, because women write quality books, too.

    I should know. I think I own all of them. O_O

    So I set about locating quality books by men—of which there are many. Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Blackmoore, Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, and I’ve recently added Chris F. Holm for the tottering TBR shelf. I’ve got more! I’m always looking for more.

    Of course, now I’m looking at the shelves and going, “Why are most of these authors mostly white?” So I’m going out looking for quality books written by people of color, because I realized as I was going along that what I was reading was shaping the writer I was becoming, and the writer I was becoming really needs to look at the tone, voice, point of view, and general feel of books written from all kinds of authors.

    As an author, I know that the voice will change per author—and that each author’s voice is shaped by his or her experiences. That’s why I want a wide variety of authors on my shelves. Because I want to be informed. I want to read books that shape my worldview—and I don’t want that worldview to be dominated primarily by one group over the other.

    But it should always be about finding quality writing—not willy-nilly grab-ass in the bookstore. That way leads to heartache.

    • Had a supremely similar experience years ago – “Why are all of these books on my shelves by white ladies?” So I set out looking for dudes, and then for people of color. I think we all need reminders to seek out stories and experiences of those who aren’t US. I know I am a more aware person and a more well-rounded writer as a result. I sincerely hope that someday in the future, no one will be having this conversation. But for now, I’m glad we’re having it.

      One exception to my lady author rule – for years, my favorite fantasy and sci-fi books, like the ones that I considered CANON, like the bibles of those genres, were by (white) men. C.S. Lewis. Tolkien. Asimov. This was reinforced by high school and even college. These were the Fathers of Genres, the Great Minds of SF. And then one day, a friend handed me an Ursula Leguin book (I think it was the first in the Earthsea series), and it was as if someone had opened a door in my head, and the light came flooding through. I devoured her books like they were about to disappear (I still, to this day, re-visit the Tombs of Atuan on a yearly basis. There is something in that book that touches a profound part of the unconscious). And somewhere in the middle of feasting, I thought, “Why have I never heard of her until now?”

      It’s a question we’re still answering.

      Thank you, both, for continuing that conversation.

    • Octavia Butler is a fantastic black science fiction author. Writers from ANY genre can learn from how she handles exposition, scene tension, and characters who are at once fantastical and believable.

  • Too many people are fucking books snobs. “Oh, *I* don’t read [romance, sci-fi, mystery, dead poets, erotica]” they say in a snooty voice as if this says they are somehow superior to those with plebian tastes who DO read {fill in the blank]. I am now barely on speaking terms with one friend who’s never read Pride and Prejudice, with an inference that it couldn’t possibly be interesting because it’s a PERIOD piece.

    Absolutely, read what you enjoy, what moves you, what puts you on the edge of your chair. But once in a while, take a look at what you’re reading and slip in something different, just to see if you’ll like it, or (gasp!) mebbe learn something. Anais Nin. Jules Verne. Sylvia Plath. Charles Dickens. Don’t stick to one genre OR gender. What is reading FOR if not to stretch the imagination?

    • June 19, 2013 at 6:11 PM // Reply

      I’m more of a book slut. I’ll give anything a try once. Even *shudder* Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen (could never finish anything by either author). But now I’m actively trying to read more women authors, more authors of color, genres that I don’t normally read. Because I want to read a wide variety of stuff.

    • Oh, god, those are the worst! I knew this guy in high school who, and I quote “doesn’t read fiction books from this century.” And then he just changed that to “I don’t read fiction.” People limit themselves so much by doing that. They just assume that something isn’t good without even giving it a chance, and then they end up missing out on great works of art that deserve to be read and recognized. I mean, if you read something and don’t like it, then that’s fine. But if someone doesn’t even bother to read something, then they have no right to criticize it. It’s like a child who claims not to like chocolate without ever having tried it before. If the dumb kid would just shut up and eat it, he would discover how beautifully awesome it is.
      Basically, what I’m saying is SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR WORD-CHOCOLATE, YOU DUMB BOOK SNOBS!

      • That can’t possibly be worse than being told by a young SWM, during my college years ” Oh, I don’t read. I don’t need to. I know everything I need to know.”

        Well how wonderful for him! Not having to do that pesky stuff.

  • It would be very interesting to see what people would choose to read if books didn’t include a byline. I know that sounds weird because many people love to follow specific authors, and branding is often tied to an author.

    What got me thinking about this is that I have been a tech writer for over 20 years in Silicon Valley. We don’t get bylines. Voice and style reflects the specific company. Lots of us are women, but that’s not visible in the docs, help systems, etc.

  • I’ve learned to listen to a broad variety of people for book recommendations. I used to be sort of snobbish when it came to the genres and subgenres I’d read… well, I’d read some non-stellar stuff in certain subgenres and subsequently crossed those subgenres off the list, so it wasn’t so much snobbishness as quasi-fear. But six years ago, I listened to one rec for one series in one of those CODE NAME: ICKY subgenres, and HOLY CRAP WHERE DID ALL THIS INCREDIBLE STUFF COME FROM?

    Now, yeah, my bookshelves, both physical and virtual, are still mostly white guys (like Scalzi, I’m neither proud nor ashamed of it; them’s just da numbers), but lo and behold, the habit listening to any well-presented rec has injected a growing proportion of Not The Old Standard into my personal library. It’s brought me to one conclusion: good writing does not give a rat’s ass about the writer’s skin color, plumbing, playtime preferences, choice of TV shows or anything but good writing. That stuff’s EVERYWHERE. I literally do not have the time to read everything I now WANT to read. Hell, if I had nothing else to do for the rest of a long life, I couldn’t finish it all, and that’s not even taking into account the NEW stuff that’s constantly boiling up and making Mount Toberead grow like a giant rock weed.

    And that’s exactly the kind of problem I like to have.

  • As a weird aside, when I saw this in my feedreader, I initially scanned the title as “On the Subject of Diversifying Your Bishounen”. I’m not sure what that says about my subconscious.

  • When I was growing up in the 80’s I was a book-kid (which didn’t keep ME out of serious trouble, but I am special) and the female authors I loved were Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey and Ursala K. LeGuin. I am sure i missed many, many more that I would have loved, but where I lived, you just didn’t happen to see books by women authors. I don’t know why. I devoured books, from the Bible and War and Peace, to Mike Resnick to Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Nancy Drew. I sampled everything. There are many books to discover out there and women authors are part of that, but the fact is there is also “white dudes.” Even if I don’t like or agree with something an author does or says, they have the right to say it. I look for a story and if it happens to be written by a woman, fantastic. I love that. It makes me happier being a woman and a writer (some days it seems) Give ALL authors a chance. In my experience, women have often been talked out of writing. Part of my job has been to encourage it–same as my mother and aunt encouraged me. They just said it wouldn’t ALWAYS be a man’s world–and I see the change now.

  • Great stories are written by people. Gender, skin color, the socioeconomic status and the amalgam of life experience of the author all get thrown into the mix. The acid test: is the story good and true? Is the voice authentic?

    And the discovery of these great stories is an endless and joyful activity.

    This happened to me recently (again) when I read Paula Guran’s latest anthology “After the End: Recent Apocalypses’. The second story, “Tumaki” was written by Nnedi Okorafor, an author I’d never read before. Now I am after everything this person’s written. The story impacted me that much, the voice, the imagery.

    I did not know (or care) when I read the story that the author was a Nigerian woman. I’m not making a stab at political correctness here. I am saying that, for me, when an author brings their whole being into their writing, I can read that. I want that. White dude, Nigerian woman, whatever.

    Make me laugh while you’re breaking my heart and I don’t care who or what you are.

    • All that is very good and very true, though I fear it misses the point of the post. That said, if you read widely and broadly already — again, what’s the problem with suggesting that others read as widely and broadly, too?

      — c.

  • June 19, 2013 at 8:04 PM // Reply

    Thanks for the post. I think you’re right on about the blind spot. I’ve noticed as a woman and a writer and a musician that often people simply overlook work by women, but because it’s often subconscious, people become reactionary and defensive whenever the subject is brought up. It’s important because this insidious marginalization serves to effectively, if not silence, then turn the volume way down on half of humanity. And we can all benefit from more voices.

  • Octavia Butler is black AND a woman..kill those birds, lady! I also really like Flannery O’Conner. Here’s a tidbit: did you know Dorthy Parker was A.A. Milne’s literary Nemesis. Yup.

    BOB BOIS: I wish everyone felt like you, ESPECIALLY agents and publishers LOL.

    I have on at least four occasions been told by peer reviewers that “I like your stuff…you write like a man.”

    • Octavia Butler is an exceptional writer. Read her for her awesomeness. And then get bonus not-old-white-dudes content on your bookshelf. Its win-win.

  • I was recently at a used bookstore with a friend who reads and collects vintage sci-fi books along with me, and as we were looking through books he randomly remarked “You know, I’ve never really found a female sci-fi author who’s books I really liked”. I had just so happened to pass a copy of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed a few minutes ago, which is one of my all-time favorite books, so I ran over to get it and suggested he read it. I was pretty excited to find that a week later he finished it and described it as everything he ever wanted in a sci-fi book.

    Stepping out of your comfort zone with books is pretty important, and once I left my little bubble of a handful of authors and just started reading whatever I could find I have been exposed to so many amazing books I never would have given a second chance before!

  • Unfortunately, I think a lot of some men’s aversion to reading books by women has to do with marketing. Of course gender bias and sexism comes into play. I do think some men have an aversion to books by female authors, and books with female protagonists. But what I find most disturbing is the marketing of books by women. You can see this illustrated best in articles like Coverflip by Maureen Johnson (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/07/coverflip-maureen-johnson_n_3231935.html). Books written by women with female protagonist generally get gendered covers.

    I am a bookseller at an independent bookstore. With some authority I can say that men are literally being repelled by cliched book covers featuring women. I watch it happen five days a week. Some people say that this is just good marketing — cover designers want to appeal to their target audience. But I submit that it is bad marketing to simultaneously repel a larger potential audience.

    I like to think that I am pretty good at my job. If someone tells me their top five favorite books, I can tell them another ten they’d probably love. Doesn’t matter the genre. But I’ve had people (both men AND women, because the bias against certain book covers works both ways!) actually cringe away from me as I tried to suggest a certain book to them, all because of the cover. It doesn’t matter that I know they’d love it, or that they trust my recommendations. People judge a book by its cover.

  • Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow and Children of God – major awesomeness. I read these books because someone I trust recommended them; the same way I discovered Wendig.

  • Until about 15-20 years ago, few school literature textbooks included stories or poetry by women, much less writers of color. Even when I was at university in the late 90’s, the English curriculum reading lists were heavily slanted towards dead white guys. In one Modern British lit class, the only female writer we read was Virginia Woolf, who was relegated to the last spot on the syllabus. Though we had a leisurely three+ weeks of class time devoted to discussing (the impressive, of course) novella _Heart of Darkness_ by Joseph Conrad, by the time the semester ended, somehow we only had half a class period left to discuss Woolf. I suspect the male professor didn’t know what the hell to do with Woolf, hence the superficial appearance of inclusion and the “oops, we’ve run out of time” excuse for actually not studying or discussing her work.

    It’s disturbing, frankly, to hear women writers filled with pride that male readers have complimented them for writing “like a man.” What does that mean, exactly? Since women writers have been reading male writers since first grade, why wouldn’t their writing be influenced by the male perspective? And how is that “compliment” NOT a slam on the work done by fellow women writers that doesn’t appear to be as influenced by the male perspective?

    In my writing workshops at university, into the 2000’s, I heard male writers/students casually refer to female work as “fluff” and “boring” over and over. It didn’t matter if the author had received accolades and coveted recognition like the National Book Award. Books authored by women weren’t worth their time.

    My point here is that most people may not realize how illogically skewed the literary canon and the bookstore shelves have historically been towards male writers. It sends a message to all readers (avid or otherwise) that the best writers are men. In fact, it’s an unsurprising consequence of the publishing and academic world being run by white men.

    As Karina Cooper stated in her post here, writers are shaped by the writers they read. If writers only read white male authors (living or dead), then they will fail to recognize how they’ve shut themselves up into a very tight-knit club of white men (or white men wannabes with vaginas apparently) reading and writing white men.

    Since the community of readers and writers with publishing power have historically been white men, it’s the same as putting up the sign “No Girls Allowed” on the club door. Just this spring, I pointed out to the (male) teachers in my department that their honors literature curriculum included no female authors. They were totally and sincerely (generally they are nice guys) unaware that they’d failed to include any female authors of merit in their teachings. These teachers are under thirty, so it’s hard to excuse such ignorance, right? Frankly, I don’t think they followed up with any adjustments to their curriculum, either. Sigh. So little has actually changed.

    By the way, as a woman growing up in the same world as men, in which male authors were held up as paragons of literature and female writers were virtually ignored, I had to seek out women authors to read myself. I suppose I never thought to resent it, since I was a woman myself.

  • I just want to say that I’m super impressed you wrote this post today after going to the zoo. I can’t do anything after going to the zoo except nap.

  • I experienced a similar ‘AHA!’ moment after watching Anita Sarkeesian’s video clip about the Bechdel Test. Afterwards, I remember looking around at all forms of my media, movies, books, TV shows, etc and getting really bummed out. “Where are all the ladies?” Also, what does it say about me as a woman and self proclaimed feminist to be lacking in this area?!

    Discussing the idea with a friend and fellow avid reader we started listing off recent reads and favorite titles slowly realizing how heavily male dominated our book shelves were and I decided I would become an active reader instead of passive one. I would add diversity to my shelves. Even with this new goal it is slow going pecking away at the white dude book mountain.

    Admittedly I’ll pretty much read anything. I’m a book slut and that is ok. I like to get recommendations but I’ll also pick up random stuff. I think 10 years working as a book seller for Waldenbooks and then Borders resulted in me avoiding women authors in certain ‘genres’ because of covers. I didn’t even realize what I was doing. I now resist the urge to ignore a book based on silly cover art.

    It behooves all readers to branch out. Why the hostility around getting people to pick a female author? How immature to spout ‘don’t tell me what to read’ because how will you really know if you like an author if you don’t give them a try. It seems similar to refusing to visit the rest of the world because you live in the US. You can like more than one author or more than one genre these are not mutually exclusive. If you get out of your comfort zone you might discover some amazing shit! Why deny yourself an excellent read?

    My quest is also to expose others to different authors as well. The members of my book club are all female yet I find it difficult to find women authors for discussion. I remember we read ‘Little Bee’ by Chris Cleave and sort of thinking WTF. Here is a white dude writing as two women, a white woman and a woman of color. Where is the female equivalent of his book? Where is a female writing as two different male main characters? Not that I want to necessarily read about a male protagonist even written by a woman. It simply irritated me with the gross imbalance of authors and that all these men were writing as women. Now when it is my turn to pick a title I go out of my way to choose anything except a white dude.

    Rambling at a close. I think it is a fantastic post and I’m excited to read some of your title suggestions.

  • I had a very similar moment to yours, Chuck. I looked at my shelf, and it was mostly fantasy, and mostly white dudes. And a LOT of Stephen King because…well, Stephen King, dude. In particular, I’m interested in female authors that write in the horror genre because when I googled lists of horror authors, I got a list of all white dudes. Some of them threw Shirley Jackson or Mary Shelley on there…but that’s it. And if we’ve only published two female horror writers in all of human history…we’ve perhaps been doing something wrong.

    That’s actually how I found Seanan McGuire’s Newsflesh trilogy. She was listed as a recommendation.

    That being said, if people know any female horror writers (or dark fantasy), I’m all ears. I’m curious as to what else is out there.

    (My next project is to start working in more authors of color, but I only have so much money and so many books I want to read.)

  • Good post again, Chuck. My own… epiphany early last year was similar to yours. The unconscious bias of reading books only (more like 99%, but hey!) by men was a surprise. People often overlook this and they just don’t realise it is happening, even when they don’t have anything against the other gender. Now I have a very simple philosophy on this: If I don’t read it, I won’t know if I like it or not. Gender still doesn’t matter to me, but I have developed an appreciation for good fiction that is irrespective of the gender or race or ethnicity or any other distinction that defines the author. I won’t read books by men or women who behave irresponsibly on the internet, such as calling out reviewers, making fun of them, or generally being disrespectful (or talking about nothing but Obama’s politics all day and raging about it). That’s really it.

    I’m open to almost any kind of fiction. Reading books (more books?) by women has allowed me to even experiment with different genres, and while I don’t like shifter urban fantasy, regency fantasy, non-anglophone SFF as much as I like my primary SFF, I certainly appreciate them and wouldn’t turn a book down anymore just because it is in those genres.

    Which is what reading should really be about: broadening your horizons. Especially important as a blogger! :P

    And as an extension of my comment on one of your posts last week, I wrote up a list of my favourite women in SFF on my blog. These are some of the women I’ve been reading in the last decade and a half (mostly in the last 2 years) and I’d recommend any one of them to readers:

    http://sonsofcorax.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/publishing-marketing-03-women-in-sff-part-1/

  • I’ve had a looksie on my shelf, and it appears that about half of my books are written by women (I’m taking Pratchett’s insanely large Discworld collection out of the equation, as it skews that figure a little); some obviously women (Jean M. Auel), some I didn’t know where women when I bought the books originally (case, Robin Hobb. I was given the first Farseer book as a present in the previous decade, and liked it so much that I bought the next two, and then the Liveship Trilogy, and then the Tawny Man books. Only after I googled Robin Hobb did I discover she’s a woman).

    I can happily say that the calibre of books I have on my shelf by women is every bit as high as that of books by men. Even the books aimed at younger readers that I have, whether written by man or woman, are great. Maybe this just means I have impeccable taste, or extraordinary luck in picking out books, but other than the Thomas Covenant books by Stephen Donaldson, there’s nothing on my shelves that I dislike. Some’s easy reading, some not so much, but every one of them has something unique about them.

    Favourite remains Watership Down, though, and that’ll never change.

  • I highly recommend Jennifer Roberson’s Tiger and Del series. I never got into her Chesuli series as much, but found the “old-skool-sword-and-sorcery” feel combined with messing around with (and, in the case of the character Tiger, directly challenging) gender conventions of that very sword-and-sorcery genre to be a lot of fun in the Tiger and Del books. I also liked that, to my mind, she managed to successfully write a first person POV from the perspective of a charactater who would definitely be considered an “alpha, MANLY man” without either betraying those aspects of his character while at the same time bringing him from a man who views women as objects for his pleasure to an equal partnership with a woman he deeply respects. (While still, on occasion, sliding into obnoxious sexism–because he is also a wonderfully written *human* character.)

    I also cannot recommend the work of Lois McMaster Bujold highly enough. The always fun, always heart-breaking Vorkosigan Saga, her searingly spiritual Chalion books in particular are my favorites, but I have found that even those I didn’t “like” (as in devour and pine for the next book immediately) such as the Sharing Knife saga I have (upon rereads) found to be incredibly good. I always say she’s one of my two favorite authors (Terry Pratchett being the other), but if you opted to judge in terms of “how many books of said favorite author I’m not hugely fond of” she’d actually win. There is only one Bujold I’ve read and haven’t finished (Ethan of Athos) and only one of hers I haven’t ever read (Falling Free). Mostly, I admit, because they had a distinct lack-of-Miles-Vorkosigan.

  • Thanks Chuck for having the platform to speak about this stuff. It’s important we dialogue about it more and more. And I hope that this isn’t just a flurry of blog posts from people and then it will go away into obscurity again. Into silence. The dialogue needs to stay open and we need to continue to push forward. Nothing will change if we don’t make a conscious effort at all times to change it.

  • “Fifth, reading a book by a woman won’t turn your sperm into a slushy, sterile granita.”

    haha, interesting assumption you’re making there…. :-)
    Not that I didn’t tremendously enjoy the post, I hasten to add.

  • Just my humble addition to the discussion. I found the easiest way to get a nice widespread exposure to writers of both genders is to pick up anthologies in the genre I enjoy. Most times I get them because there’s a story by an author I already like, but I read the anthology cover to cover, usually picking up at least a few new authors every time. Of course, it goes without saying to read anthologies that INCLUDE diverse authors. I started out by reading the heavies: Tolkein, Shakespeare, etc. But I was lucky enough to also read Anne McCaffery,Susan Cooper, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Nancy Collins, Nancy Springer, and later, Poppy Z Brite and Caitlin Kiernan. Mostly from recommendations from friends, which led to other authors as well. I just like good stories with interesting characters. Not much else matters to me when choosing a book.

  • I totally agree though I ted to unintentionally read more women authors. Also white authors – I’m currently trying to diversify my reading racially and ethnically. No specific percentages, just less white authors.

  • Like a lot of other people I went through a similar moment but mine wasn’t as much a Boys/Girls divide (I mean, there is one but that wasn’t this particular days worry), I realized that most of my authors were from the US so I set about finding authors that are non-natives. This took place a few years ago and there’s of course worlds of literature I was never aware of because I live in a smaller town and still love shopping the shelves more than browsing a site. Even with that restriction though I’m still finding myself looking through bookstores with an eye for less US and more THEM and finding amazing things.

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