Reading list analysis: gender

My decision to start tracking everything I read was largely a reaction to a blog post that my spouse shared with me (but that I haven’t read, and I don’t know where it was from or who wrote it so I can’t credit them). First, it was because my spouse said “this guy says he read 65 books last year, how many did you read?” and partially because the author of that post pointed out how tracking that information caused them to realize that the vast majority of books they read were by white men. I was intrigued and wanted to see what my numbers would look like.

So here I’m going to look at the gender breakdown. To make it clear, the numbers might be skewed one way or the other, because when I recorded the data I looked at the number of books I read that were written by men or women, not the number of men and women whose books I read. So because I read four books in the Aubrey-Maturin series, that counted as four books by a man. One author that I read uses a gendered pseudonym that doesn’t correlate to their real-life gender – I counted that individual under their “real” gender as opposed to the one implied by the author listed on the book.

I’ll note that I’m only looking at novels in this analysis – I don’t read enough short stories or what-have-yous to

One thing I’ve noticed is that the gender disparity on my reading lists is almost entirely genre-related.

In 2013, I read more books by men than by women. It was about 60/40 men-women. Not-coincidentally, 2013 was the year I read way too many naval novels. If I cut those from my analysis, it ends up being much more even. The vast majority of books I’ve reviewed on this blog are from my 2013 list, with a few outliers: books I read in 2012 or earlier that I wanted to include for stylistic reasons, books I included because they fit the theme, and books I read more recently but that someone had specifically requested.

In 2014 the gender split was almost exactly 50-50. 2014 was also the year I fell victim to the participant-observer effect and consciously tried to broaden my horizons and read a wider variety of genres. I didn’t consciously attempt to reach gender parity, but it happened.

2015 (so far) is very different: more than 75% of the novels I’ve read so far this year have been by women.  This is also the year where I’ve been visiting the local public library every week (as opposed to 2014, where I visited either the public library where I worked or, after quitting that job, where I went to one of the larger in-system public libraries). The local library’s mass market sff collection is heavily geared towards urban/contemporary fantasy especially, as one person put it “urban fantasy with a strong romantic component” (as opposed to paranormal romance).* It’s a genre I happen to enjoy, and since circumstances outside my control have lead to a pretty serious increase in my stress level, it’s a genre I frequently turn to in order to “decompress”. With the way things are going right now I don’t have the psychic energy to put up with incredibly dense philosophical tomes so a 300 page book about a woman who can make her art come to life/is secretly Lucifer’s daughter/discovers that John Constantine “Jack Winter” isn’t dead after all/has tattoos that are actually demons who emerge from her body at night/is a salsa-dancing, parkour-ing cryptozoologist/etc. etc. etc. is pretty much exactly my speed (for the time being). I’ve read some stuff in the genre by men, but in all honesty I’d much rather read Séanan McGuire than Jim Butcher. Not to generalize, but the dude stuff I’ve read has been so much more up its own ass that I rarely feel the desire to read more than the first book in any given series. The one exception so far this year has been Daniel José Older, but the first book in his series just came out in January so there hasn’t been the opportunity to fill my reading list with his work.

This imbalance actually started at the end of last year, where only 3 of the last 20 novels I read were by men.

The year is yet young so it’s likely that this will change, but considering that only 2 of the 7 novels I have out from the library are by men I doubt it will change too much.


*If you’re reading this and want credit, let me know.


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