Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is 2014 the Year of "Reading Women"?

Women writers have been the focus of some attention in the world of book lovers in 2014.  A writer and illustrator named Joanna Walsh kicked off a sort of grass-roots movement in January of this year with the Twitter hashtag #readwomen2014.  Walsh and others have encouraged readers to consider reading ONLY books written by women this year, or at least to try reading more women authors.  This has prompted some press attention, and the publication of a few lists of "best women writers" of past and present.  Most recently, joined in by posting an article entitled, "These Are the 21 Female Authors You Should Be Reading."  

My reaction to this issue is a bit mixed.  Anything in the press and social media that draws attention to reading and celebrates good books is welcome, in my view ... And, of course, I think there are many superb women writers whose work deserves promotion.  Many of my favorite authors are women, certainly (although plenty of male writers are represented among my favorites as well).  A good number of the new book releases that I hope to read this year are, in fact, written by women.  However, I find it a bit strange and depressing that, in the year 2014, we feel the need to highlight the fact that women are great writers .... Is that really still big news?  Do we actually need to remind readers to read books by women?  I would hope that we've reached a point where it's not especially surprising that a woman can write a chart-topping bestseller, or pen a highly-regarded literary work that wins a top fiction prize (for example, Donna Tartt taking home the Pulitzer this month for "The Goldfinch") ... But maybe that is not yet the case.  

So, I will join in the Year of Reading Women, at least in a fashion.  I promise to read plenty of great books by women writers in 2014 ... Then again, I ALWAYS read plenty of great books by women!  But this time I'll blog about them.  And, you know what, I imagine I will read some good books by men writers this year as well, and blog about those, too.  And if someone declares 2015 the Year of Reading Men, then... well, ok, first I'll laugh, but then I will pledge to read plenty of men writers in 2015, and blog about them.  And I'll read more women writers as well.  What I hope is that we will all read and appreciate fabulous books every year, no matter the gender, race, ethnicity, age, etc, of the author.

That said, here are the top books by women writers that I hope to read in the coming months:

"The Goldfinch," Donna Tartt
"Sleep Donation," Karen Russell
"Boy, Snow, Bird," Helen Oyeyemi
"Love & Treasure," Ayelet Waldman
"Astonish Me," Maggie Shipstead
"Americanah," Chimimanda Adichie

What do you think... Would you want to read only women writers this year?  Are more of your favorite authors women?  


  1. I could never restrict myself to reading only books by women for a year. I find that I tend to alternate between books by men and women. It's not anything I do on purpose, but I have noticed this pattern in my reading. After I read a book that is driven by plot, I usually pick a book that is more focused on characters and emotions. I don't know if we have reached a point in American gender politics where it acceptable to say this, but I find that plot-driven books are typically written by men. I realize that there are many exceptions to this generalization, of course. My point is that I would really miss the novels written by men if I were to commit myself to #readwomen2014.

  2. You know, I rarely think about whether a book is written by a man or a woman. I am certainly aware of it and I read a lot of female authors, but it certainly doesn't dictate which books I choose to read. I would hate to have to limit myself because I agree that I think it would somewhat limit the types of books I could read. If I had to guess, I would say that I already read more books written by women than books written by men. I am not really willing to commit to #readwomen2014 because I just don't think it is necessary. I don't believe that men have any inherent advantage over women when it comes to getting readership.

  3. I rarely think about the author's gender when I select a book, either. I MAY have read more books written by women, but I am not certain about that ... And if I have, I don't think it has been a conscious choice. Interesting comment that books written by men tend to be more plot-driven, while women writers may focus more on characters and emotion. I'll have to see if I notice that in the next few books I read!

  4. Another new book by a woman writer that I want to read this year is "The Last Illusion" by Porochista Khakpour. I enjoyed her inventive and haunting debut novel, "Sons and Other Flammable Objects." So many great books on my list to read in the coming months ... I think my only problem will be finding enough time!

  5. Here's to well written, interesting books no matter the author's gender.