So apparently my only blog post for all of 2014 was a breakdown of my reading statistics for 2013 and a plan for how I was going to improve those statistics (specifically in terms of gender) for 2014. I had planned to write a few reviews—and those reviews will still be written and posted—but when you work between 70 and 90 hours a week thousands of kilometres from home, things like that fall by the wayside. I did, however, actually follow through with the changes to my reading program.
Specifically, I tried to reach gender parity in my reading for 2014 after realizing that I wasn’t as close as I thought I was when I looked at what I’d read in 2013. I thought I was pretty close to 50/50 men/women, but it turns out I was more like 63/37, and my numbers on writers of colour were even worse.
So my statistics for 2014 are:
72 books total, up from 65 last year
30 books by men (42%)
39 books by women (54%)
3 books by both men and women (4%)
7 books by people of colour (10%), up from only 2 books last year
4 books by women of colour (5%), up from zero books last year
14 Canadian books (19%), down from 15 books last year
And here are the best books I read this year, in the order that I read them:
- Against the Smart City, by Adam Greenfield
- Infidelity, by Stacey May Fowles
- Stoner, by John Williams
- Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald
- The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes
- The Children of Men, by P.D. James
- The Stone Boatmen, by Sarah Tolmie
- Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
- The Ways of White Folks, by Langston Hughes
- Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie
- The Inspection House: An Impertinent Field Guide to Modern Surveillance, by Emily Horne & Tim Maly
- Hild, by Nicola Griffith
- Bone & Bread, by Salema Nawaz
I also had the weird experience of reading a book published this year that is not listed on Goodreads (and it’s not self-published). It was also so good that it nearly made the above list. It was NoFood, by Sarah Tolmie. A second honourable mention goes to The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.
I noticed a few things about my reading for 2014. First, I found myself putting off reading a lot of books that I really wanted to read because they didn’t fit into my program. I have a backlog of about 20 books by men that I really wanted to read last year, but that I passed over because my program required me to be reading books written by women instead.
Second, for reasons that likely have to do with internalized prejudices, I find I’m less tolerant of “trash books” written by women. When I say “trash books,” I mean books—usually genre fiction, but not necessarily—that are fun to read but otherwise have very little literary merit. Charlie Stross’ Laundry books come immediately to mind, or Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate books. I am willing to pick up a “trash book” by a male author and give it a chance without thinking much about it, but I am far more demanding about quality when I pick up a book written by a woman. That’s probably not a good thing (though it may go a long way toward explaining why 9 of the 13 books on my “best of” list for 2014 were authored or co-authored by women), and I’ll have to be mindful of it future.
For 2015 I will be deliberately switching back to reading without a specific agenda/program, to see if my habits have changed in an internalized way, ie. will I come anywhere close to gender parity without making a deliberate, conscious effort.