I don’t generally keep track of my reading on any sort of statistical level. I read what I read for reasons that are as much about the mood I’m in when it comes time to start a new book as anything else (probably more than any other reason, to be honest). This means that my reading choices over the course of a year tend to be not particularly considered.
But this year everything I read got logged into Goodreads, and for the first time in a while I wasn’t actually paid to read anything, so I thought I’d take a look at what I read in the absence of any direction (beyond a handful of books that were for my steampunk book club). Here’s the breakdown:
I read 65 books in 2013; 39 of them were written or edited* by men, 24 were written or edited by women, and 2 were written or edited by a mix of both men and women. Only 2 were written or edited by people of colour (to the best of my knowledge; I thought the number was higher, but at least one author who I thought was black turned out to be white and it turns out that several books I thought I had read in 2013 were actually from my 2012 list).
In terms of percentages, that’s 37% by women, 3% by people of colour, and just because we should cover all the bases for our anxieties, 25% of those books were Canadian. Books written or edited by both men and women were not included at all in those statistics, as I felt they would cancel each other out, so to speak. I thought of looking into how many of the books I read were by queer authors, but that’s problematic for any number of reasons. I know that several were, because I know the authors, but I’m not interested in prying into the personal lives of authors to the degree where I would know the details of their sexuality, so I can’t give you any statistics.
My favourite books of 2013 (in the order that I read them) were:
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
- How to Get Along with Women, by Elisabeth de Mariaffi
- Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
- Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes
- The Showrunners, by David Wild
- Born Weird, by Andrew Kaufman
- Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
- The Summer is Ended and We Are Not Yet Saved, by Joey Comeau
- We Can Build You, by Philip K. Dick
- Ghosts, by César Aira
- Food and Trembling, by Jonah Campbell
- The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs
Anyway, back to statistics. What I learned from my reading list for 2013 is that I need to make more of an effort to diversify. I thought I had read more like 40-45% women authors last year, and closer to 10% authors of colour, but the numbers show that I wasn’t as aware of my own habits as I thought.
So this year a minimum of 50% of the books I read will be written or edited by women. I’ve made no specific targets about books written or edited by people of colour, but I have already acquired more books by people of colour for my 2014 list than I read in 2013, and I plan to look for more. Books written or edited by a team of both men and women will, as in 2013, “cancel each other out,” and count toward neither gender’s total. Books I began reading in 2013 but did not finish will count towards the 2014 list (assuming I finish reading them in 2014). One additional rule: if, at the end of 2014, I find myself having read an equal number of books by both men and women and only have time to read one or two more books before the end of the year, those will be books written or edited by women.
I’ve already made good headway. I’m currently on my 9th book of 2014, and have so far read four books by men and four by women. I’m keeping things simple, alternating between books by men and women. Early in 2015 I’ll write another post like this to let you folks know how things went.
*I use the word “edited” throughout this post to refer to the editors of books that are anthologies and other kinds of collections, not to the editors of single-author volumes and so on.