Girl books, boy books

Once again Sherwood Smith is being dead interesting. This time about people who read only books by girl writers or only by boy writers. The comments are also fascinating.

Most of my life I have read more books by women than by men. This was true even when I was first reading. Enid Blyton, L. M. Montgomery, and Rosemary Sutcliffe were my first favourites. A little later on I was mad keen on Georgette Heyer, Tanith Lee, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

I did not notice this tendency until it was pointed out to me in high school by a boy. “Why do you always read such girly books?” he asked with a sneer. I was reading Angela Carter when he said this, who’s not exactly the girliest writer I can think of. As a result I shifted from accidentally reading mostly women to doing it on purpose.

This position was strengthened by my experiences as an undergraduate at university. The only courses that included books by women were the ones on Austen and Bronte. When I asked why a course on twentieth century fiction included nothing by women the lecturer challenged me to name books by women worthy of being on his list. I suggested books by Angela Carter, Isak Dinesen, Flannery O’Connor, and Jean Rhys. The lecturer dismissed all of them as lightweight.1

Dear Blog Readers, I was cranky. I didn’t voluntarily read another book by a boy for a whole year or maybe it was six months. Or it could have been until I discovered the fabulous novels of Jim Thompson. Can’t remember now.

I also started to notice that almost every bloke I knew only read books by men. That this notion that women’s books are lightweight was widespread amongst those of the male persuasion. For many it still seems to be true. When male authors are asked their favourite books they overwhelming name books by their own gender. To such an extent that I keep note of the ones who name women. Such as Garth Nix (big Heyer fan), Kim Stanley Robinson (Virginia Woolf fantatic), and Sean Stewart (Jane Austen obsessive).2

Women are far more mixed in their reading. Even me. I read way more books by women than by men, but I’ve still read a tonne of boy books. Some of there are even quite good. I’d even recommened them to my little sister. Maybe . . .

What about youse lot? Do you notice a tendency one way or the other in your own reading? Do you have idea why? Or do you just read the books that look cool. If so: Bless!

  1. Just as well I didn’t mention out-and-out commercial writers like Heyer or Dunnett, eh? Doesn’t matter that they’re geniuses, does it? They’re women and they write commercial fiction. Oh, the horror! []
  2. I knew Scott was a keeper when I checked out his bookshelves and found lots of books by women. []


  1. the dragonfly on #

    I read…everything. Okay, not everything, but nearly…whatever catches my attention, in so many genres.

    And, looking at my bookshelves, there might be slightly more women authors than men, but not by much. It never really occurred to me to think about it.

  2. Justine on #

    Dragonfly: Good for you. The idea that either women or men are better equipped to be writers is ridiculous.

  3. Sir Tessa on #

    To be honest, I don’t pay attention. I choose my books according to whether or not they appeal to me, not on whether or not the author has a Y chromosome.

    Though at a glance, I appear to have more male than female authors on my shelves.

  4. jennifer, aka literaticat on #

    hmm – i guess i read more women authors than men, but only because i mostly read children’s books. and, you know, there aren’t that many dude children’s book writers. which is why, when they show up, lady librarians start to swoon and throw panties at them.

    no offence, scott. but um. it happens.

    anyway, i never thought about it — i guess guys could be as good at writing as girls. maybe.

    (probably not. but maybe.)

  5. mark c on #

    I read anything that sounds cool!

    You should have suggested Virginia Woolf to your snooty lit prof!

  6. Lizabelle on #

    *sigh* My boyfriend and I clash about this regularly. He says women don’t write about things that are important to him (the environment, politics, whatever). I say they do, but that they often take a different approach (such as fictionalising the issues) to the one he’s expecting.


    Mind you, he also thinks that there’s no point in reading unless you’re reading something “worthy”, so what does he know?

    (Apart from his ignorance in this respect, he’s lovely, I promise!)

  7. Lizabelle on #

    PS – to actually answer your question, I read a pretty equal mix, possibly slightly more women than men. I am of the “read whatever looks good” persuasion.

  8. Asta on #

    It’s never been a conscious choice – or it didn’t used to be – but I notice I tend to gravitate more toward female writers than male. Male writers tend to have these idealized female objects of affection for their male protagonists that I normally can’t stand. Though if the books aren’t utter crap to begin with I’ll happily read both.

  9. karenthology on #

    Flannery O’Connor, a lightweight?

    I’ll be over here, my jaw on the floor. Did he not read Wise Blood? Gah.

  10. Jaye on #

    I read both, and always have. But I do tend to look to women writers for more three-dimensional female characters, and more female protagonists.

    In particular, it’s hard to find male writers choosing a middle-aged female protagonist. And as a middle-aged female, dammit, I want to read about women my own age sometimes, characters with families and age lines and more than one job on their resumes.

  11. emily. on #

    Scott’s uglies’ trilogy was the first boks I read by a man. It was all subconscious, but upon inspection of my local Barnes & Noble [where I buy all my books], I found that the YA section is almost entirely female written. I’m open minded though…

  12. Lauren on #

    One of the advantages of growing up female in a male-centered world is that we are forced to read lots of books with male protagonists. This trains us to be able to see things from a different-gendered point of view. Since boys are so rarely asked to do this they don’t get to strengthen their gender-empathy muscles. This can ultimately harden into a conviction that books with female protags (most of which are probably written by women) concern topics of no interest to them. What a terrible loss this is to them. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, for example, is a book by a woman about a woman and the action basically centers around her preparations for a party. Exactly the kind of subject to be dismissed as feminine drivel. I, for one, can not imagine going through life without having read that book. That book completed me as a human being.

  13. Barry on #

    When I was younger, I don’t think I really paid attention to who the writer was most of the time, certainly not their gender. (In fact, I think I was unsure about Andre Norton for a long time.) I just read whatever looked good, or was recommended to me.

    Now of course I do pay more attention, but I still don’t select on the basis of gender, and my favorites include men and women. But it is true, my client list is mostly women.

  14. Winchester Grey on #

    When Julian May’s Saga of the Pleistocene Exiles were published in the UK, at least, the author bio was — to my eyes — self-consciously gender-neutral, like the author’s name (pseudonym, maybe). Reading them, though, I was convinced that they were written by a woman. I couldn’t say why, off-hand, but I was delighted when, in later years, she came out as a woman author, and I was correct.*

    I read both, fairly evenly, I think.

    * Same deal with Clive Barker being gay; I can’t remember which book it was, but one of them set my gaydar off.

  15. Andrew on #

    It’s interesting… I’d like to say that the writer’s gender doesn’t enter my mind when choosing my reading, but goodness know’s what’s going on subconsciously.

    However, when I look at my reading patterns, I *have* noticed that I read substantially more female than male authors when it comes to YA fiction.

    Also, as a librarian, I get a lot of my reader advisory from women, the industry being what it is. I don’t think this largely effects the gender of my preferred authors.

    I will say this, though – I think it’d be fair to say that there’s a lot of engendering in the writing industry based, not around what is *good*, but what is *marketable*. And that’s unfortunate.

  16. Kevin on #

    When I was a teenager, I probably read mostly male writers (except for Agatha Christie). As an adult though, I’ve tried to broaden my reading horizons. As Lauren said, “This trains us to be able to see things from a different-gendered point of view.” I also wanted my daughter to grow up with strong female characters in the books she read, so I tried to find women writers for her to read, such as Elizabeth Moon and Tamora Pierce.

  17. Delia on #

    When I was a kid, I read anything and everything I could find, regardless of the gender of the author or the protagonist. In graduate school, a newly-minted feminist, I noticed that “The Canon” included only honorary men (George Eliot), the Brontes (except Anne, for some reason, although *The Tenant of Wildfell Hall* is a perfectly wonderful book) and Jane Austen, who was a total girl, but clearly charmed her way in. After that, I read mostly women for a while.

    Now? I think I privilege books written by women a little over books written by men, but not systematically. There’s a certain kind of muscular adventure that a lot of men write (sometimes women, too) that just doesn’t ring my chimes. But I love John Crowley and Geoff Ryman and T.A. Anderson and Scott (duh) and China Mieville and Neil Gaiman and Leon Garfield, too. And I loved Arthur Ransome when I was a girl. Go figure.

  18. Brandielle on #

    It’s funny but I would honestly have to go to my bookshelf and start separating things into 2 piles to have any idea of who I read more of. I’d guess it’s about even, maybe a few more women authors.

    I guess I’m unusual in the fact that I don’t notice who the author is of a book I’m looking at unless it’s a very well known name. It’s only been in the past year I’ve even really kept track of authors to look for other books by them (before now I would keep track of a series or just find a book that looked/sounded interesting).

    In school when the teacher or instructor would give us info on the author in an effort to help us relate more to the book I was always having to force myself to listen. Nothing against authors but honestly when I read a book i ‘willingly suspend belief’ and just concentrate on the characters and story. Thinking about the author wold ruin the experience for me.

    I don’t want you to feel that I don’t think you authors are important to the book but I rather consider you overall just a good book list I can look to knowing I liked your earlier stuff. I like reading author’s blogs, like this one, because you’re authors so your blogs are well written but I could comfortably read your blog without loving your books or read an author’s book and think they’re idiots on their blog. I don’t really think it matters. You don’t have to be a good or even funny in real life person to be an author that I like; you just have to write good books.

  19. Chris McLaren on #

    I don’t think I’ve ever leant more heavily one way than the other, right from the word go. I was reading L’Engle and Eleanor Cameron pretty much as soon as I started reading full-length novels, and it’s never stopped.

    And a good chunk of the time I’ve been wrong about what I thought the author’s sex was anyway. Not only the Andre Norton example above, but James Tiptree, and Kim Robinson, and… well, you get the idea.

    I do read in some subgenres that are male-author dominated (like the more noir mysteries), and avoid some that are female-author dominated (supernatural romance), but on the whole I don’t think I side too much one way or the other.

    Just in F/SF I’m not sure why any guy would want to miss out on Justina Robson, or Kelly Link, or Margo Lanagan, or Emma Bull, or Kage Baker, or Melissa Scott (if she ever–please–writes another novel), or Ellen Kushner, or Diana Wynne Jones, or Elizabeth Knox, or Maureen McHugh, or Cherryh, or Butler, or… Well I could keep doing that all day, just in genre.

    Of course, I’m similarly at a blank to why any girl would want to miss out on Tim Powers, or Gene Wolfe, or Christopher Moore, or Matt Ruff, or Jonathan Carroll, or Walter Jon Williams, or … etc.

    I don’t think I’ve noticed preference for an author’s sex among the readers I know. I wonder if I know a special select group, or if I just haven’t been paying attention. I’ll have to watch more closely now.

  20. Herenya on #

    I looked at the last 100 books I’ve read, and just over 60 were by female writers, which surprised me because I suspect generally I read more books by women. It’s definitely not a deliberate choice – there are books I love written by men, and books I love written by women. (I read a lot of the same books as my brother, too.) It just really comes to what looks interesting / good.

    One of my uni subjects this semester is modern (20th century) literature and there are female writers on the list, including Jean Rhys. Although I think there are more male writers on the list, overall.

  21. Mark on #

    I think I tend to read more male authors, not by choice but they are simply writing the kinds of books I like to read. Mens adventure stories are rarely written by women.

  22. Laurie on #

    I took a Contemporary British Lit course in college (U.S., 1995) and the authors included A.S. Byatt, Angela Carter, and Helen Zahavi. Good-o.

    My husband reads mainly nonfiction by men and women (he just wants good writing, admires Mary Roach and Natalie Angier). His favorite mystery author is Laura Lippman.

  23. Kellie Hazell on #

    The concept of Angela Carter being described as either girly or lightweight had my brain screeching to a halt. Particularly as I’ve just finished reading her collection of non-fiction essays The Sadeian Woman.

  24. Chris R on #

    I tend to read a 60/40 mixture and close to equal at times. Right now I’m read Diary by Chuck Palahniuk which is from a female point of view. I’m also reading a two books of short stories, one by Miranda July and one by Amy Hempel. Also, an excellent new serial killer novel called Heartsick written by Chelsea Cain and Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe, a post-apocalyptic retelling of the historical Jamestown with Pocahantas. However, the books in queue are mostly male writers by M. John Harrison, Iain M. Banks, Jim Butcher, Mike Carey. So there you have it.

  25. JS Bangs on #

    Kim Stanley Robinson is a man??!!

    Anyway, I can’t say that I ever paid much attention one way or another to the gender of the people I read. A quick mental inventory suggests that I have more books by men than by women on my bookshelf, but I think that’s mostly because the majority of sff authors are men. But my very favoritest sff author is LeGuin, and my favoritest single sff book is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

  26. Katie on #

    I did an inventory of my personal library (which I recently alphabetized and organized and prettyfied) and broke my books down into five categories: children, young adult, adult, library, and school-mandated.
    My children’s collection included more female writers. 54 women to 41 men, pretty evenly split. My young adult books were even more evenly split, with only one more femal writer to the 34 men. My adult collection was shaming. 44 books written by men to a pitiful five females. In my defense, most of the books were previously my parent’s that had been passed along and of those 44, many were classics which has always been a male-driven section given outdated ideas of male supremacy in the arts. My library books were more female writers, 14 to 6. What I found most interesting was that my school required us to read more books by women then men. 18 to 12, not a huge difference but significant for such a small sample.
    This is way way to long. So I read relatively evenly split it would appear!

  27. Haddy-la on #


    my book shelf. there is half of the bottom shelf full of scott westerfeld, does that reaally count? but i also counted three of your books.

    you might find this funny or not but its from, the band, the acedemy is… tv the first part is good but he last part is borring

  28. sylvia_rachel on #

    Huh. I hadn’t thought about this before, really, except to be annoyed by a particular English-professor friend of mine who thinks Jane Austen is just the worst writer ever and shouldn’t be let near the literary canon at all ever (odd because he’s a perfectly rational and intelligent human being in other respects) — but now that I do, it does appear that, in general, I read significantly more girl books than boy books.

    I don’t think I’ve been doing it on purpose. But I do think it may have something to do with the fact that, although I don’t read genre romance really at all, I do like my other genre fiction (primarily fantasy, mystery, and sf, in that order) to have a bit of romance in it; I like books about characters and the relationships (romantic or otherwise) between them more than I like books about, say, gadgets and fighting and monsters. (Also, I read a lot of YA.) Take murder mysteries. I’ll read Ed McBain, but given a choice between an Ed McBain I’ve read and a Ngaio Marsh I’ve also read, I’ll choose Marsh every time: even if I remember perfectly well who the murderer will turn out to be, there remains the exquisite pleasure of watching all the relationships among the characters unfold. (Also, Roderick Alleyn is hawt. Ahem.) This isn’t just a boy writer/girl writer thing — I would read Peter Robinson, Ian Rankin and Colin Dexter ahead of McBain for much the same reasons — but it does seem to be the case that most of the mystery writers to whom I’ve become most faithful and whose books I most frequently re-read are girl ones: Marsh, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Deborah Crombie. (It also occurs to me that almost none of these authors is American and that many of them are dead. Hmmm.)

    In the fantasy genre, the columns “books I like” and “books I really like a lot” are populated by both girl writers and some boy ones, but the column “books I adore and must own a copy of so that I can read the good bits whenever I like” currently has in it the following: To Say Nothing of the Dog and Bellwether by Connie Willis; several books, Vorkosiganly and not, by Lois McMaster Bujold; His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik; Farthing by Jo Walton; and Jaran by Kate Elliott.

    Food for thought…

  29. Eugene on #

    I will pretty much read anything, if it looks interesting or comes highly recommended. I’m not even self-conscious reading books with pink covers or girls on the subway. This could come from growing up with an older sister who also read a lot–when I was done with my books from the library, I read hers…including Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club. When I was younger, I loved the Nancy Drew books as much as The Hardy Boys 🙂 I have the same approach to food–why limit myself to certain diets when there are so many wonderful meals to enjoy?

  30. pixelfish on #

    I think my book shelves have always been mixed. But when I introduced my boyfriend to Lois Bujold he ate up the Miles books right away, and I think that was the first female author whose series he had read.

  31. Shanella on #

    You said Enid Blyton!!!! I knew I liked reading your blog 🙂 She’s probably one of my all time favourite writers! 🙂 I loved her books growing up and plan to collect them so my kids can read them (or me …. again)

  32. Megan Crewe on #

    You know, I don’t think I ever really consider whether a book’s by a man or a woman–they’re just books that look interesting or books that don’t. 😉 From my bookshelf I seem to read about 50/50, though more female authors on the children’s/YA side probably because there seem to be more women than men writing children’s and YA. I do, on the other hand, lean a little toward female protagonists over male.

  33. Book Chic on #

    I really read more books by women than I do men just because I identify with the female POV more than the male, despite being a guy. Though I am gay, so that’s prolly why, haha. If I do read a book by a guy, it’s usually about a gay character because I can identify with them as well. But I do give male writers a chance every so often if the book looks good. Being a book reviewer, I need to stay open-minded about the books I read and I’ve found some great new authors just from having that thought process. So I guess I’m of the equal opportunity field.

    And like previous people, I was surprised that someone called Flannery O’Connor a lightweight. I have yet to read anything she’s done, but a lot of my English professors admire her a lot and think she’s a fantastic writer.

  34. Ann on #

    I’ve just been thinking about it, and I realized that I don’t pay the slightest bit of attention to the gender of the author. If the book appeals to me I’ll try it, if it doesn’t I won’t. That probably explains why I have Tom Clancy and Diana Gabaldon books on the same shelf.

  35. Corey J Feldman on #

    I read a fairly even mix but if you were at ask me for a list of my favorite authors it would be heavily weighted on the female side.

  36. Ann S. on #

    Oooh. This is an excellent, interesting thought that’s never occured to me. I had a look at my July reading list (18 books, because I was on holiday for 2 weeks) and the split was 6 books by girls, 12 by boys (although interestingly, two of those boys books were by JA Konrath, who writes a female protag mystery series in the vein of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and his publisher made him go by his initials to make people think he’s a woman).

    I’d have guessed I weighted more heavily to female authors.

  37. Chris S. on #

    Weighing in from the retail side of things, I always find it odd to hear that so many men only read books by men. So sad. So short-sighted. So unfortunate for male authors — because women buy 75% of all books. And they write at least 50% of them.

    This doesn’t leave a gender snob much room.

  38. cat on #

    For me the story is the thing. It just depends on my mood and what I want to read. I cannot believe someone said that Flannery O’Connor was a lightweight. I still remember her short story that I wrote a paper on…the heavy symbolism (which I liked) is still with me after all these years (which is a good thing). I found your blog through your husband’s blog and I like to check it regularly because you are so informative and write about some many interesting issues. From your blog I have found so many others which I have enjoyed but yours is one of the few that I read consistently. You have opened me up to other writers that I have missed and I appreciate that. Thanks. Glad you came out of the secret bunker to blog and hope your writing goes well.

  39. Kelly McCullough on #

    A glance at the shelves shows a pretty even split for me. You can put me down as another male author who will happily claim several female authors among his favorites. Robin McKinley, Martha Wells, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman among them. And, just to be fair, I’ll list Tim Powers, Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelazney for some of my Y chromosome faves.

  40. Leahr on #

    I read both, definitely. But I think the real issue is not the actual gender of the author, but the way the book is marketed. If the cover has a girl on it, like HTDYF or Maureen Johnson style covers, boys look at it and think ‘girl book’ before they even know who the author is.
    The difference after that is that a girl will read both types and a boy won’t. For example, I’ll read Anthony Horowitz but my brother refuses to read Gail Carson Levine. I don’t entirely know why this is, but it makes me sad.

  41. beth on #

    I have more female authors on my shelves than male–but it’s because I prefer female protags, and those tend to be written by females.

  42. Serafina Zane on #

    I honestly can’t say I even notice whether books I read are by men or women. Or if I do, it’s kind of an afterthought. Certainly doesn’t affect my choices.
    At a guess, I’d probably say I read more by women then by men, but that might also be just who writes more in genres I read.

  43. eek on #

    I think social constructs and pressures might play a role, even subconsciously, in what men and women write and in what men and women read.

    To answer the question first, I read a mix of books by men and women and I wouldn’t even begin to know how to quantify the percentages. My regular book group only allows books by female authors, though, and I think that is more a political statement (a la generations of turning the collective nose down at women authors) than about content. I also tend to read mostly YA, which seems a good mix, but still women author heavy.

    I do think that some books seem to have a very traditionally male perspective and others a very traditionally female perspective, and not voice, but by subject matter, seem to address content that more traditionally is more generally attractive to men or women.

    But, I think for the most part, we are all still a little bit victims of the same “boys should like boy things and girls should like girl things” teachings that many of us grew up with. Even today, we see all the hullabaloo about needing books for boys and reading lists for boys and it’s hard to get boys interested in reading, etc. I think that is a cultural fallacy that we all propagate over and over. And thereby ensure it is a reality. J.K. Rowling and others cautioned to use initials so boys will read the book, even though based on content alone, boys should be attracted to the book…

    So, I am sure there are certainly books that have more appeal to men or to women, but I do think so many of our and other people’s choices are still at least subconsciously about making the manly or feminine choice.

    We could probably have all kinds of scientific studies and social experiments, and maybe it would all come down to a good book is a good book, but from marketing to titles to covers, a lot comes down to attracting a target audience, and so often that still gives a nod to sex and gender.


  44. Garth Nix on #

    I’m not only a Georgette Heyer fan, but also a fan of more women writers than I could possibly mention in a blog comment. A random glance at one of my many bookshelves includes Rosemary Sutcliff, Angela Carter, Ursula Le Guin, Dorothy Sayers, Andre Norton, Jane Austen, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Dunnett, Barbara Tuchman, Vonda MacIntyre, Patricia McKillip . . . I’d guess that my reading is roughly 50/50 by the gender of the author.

    I’ve always thought deciding not to read a book on the basis of the gender of the author is just as foolish and self-limiting as deciding not to read a book on the basis of its genre or category.

    You never know how good a book can be until you read some of it.

  45. Elodie on #

    That is so strange, that people would pay attention to gender when choosing reading material o.o I hate to admit this to an author XD but when I browse for books the author’s name is the last thing on my mind, unless I am actively looking for a book by an author I have already read. I’ll be honest in that I judge books by their covers XD But never by their authors. I don’t even mind gender discrimination in my books. As long as the story can hook me, I can forget my views, my grudges, everything for the story. I have read soem of the Xanth series by Piers Anthony for example which is very very anti-feminist (or um, male-ist, wtf is the word for that. chauvinist?) and in an article or such that would piss me off so much, but his story is good enough for me to not care. I’ve also read Tamora Pierce (who for a long time was my favorite author ever ever ever) and didn’t particularly LOVE the girl-power message–but the stories are so great, it didn’t bother me at all. Does that make sense?

    You know what I find great though? One of my favorite stories about (mostly) a girl, the lirael/sabriel series, is by a man, while one of my favorite series about a boy (harry potter.. hehe, I got into it a few years before it got popular so I consider it my right to call it one of my favs >.>) is written by a woman.

  46. Maree on #

    I read books by both guys and gals. Whateva book looks good I’ll guzzle 🙂
    I probs read 50/50.

  47. Patrick on #

    My reading is about 50/50, I’d have to guess. I really don’t care about the gender of the author or the protagonist. Over the last year or so, my reading has been more female authors than male. No reason for it. Just happened to be the books that were recommended and hooked me.

  48. cathy on #

    I don’t think gender of the author has ever been what specifically made me decide to read or not read a book. I would guess that my current reading is split around 50/50 between books written by men and books written by women. If I had to guess, probably the mystery and fantasy novels tilt somewhat more towards women and the SF somewhat more towards men, but mileage varies from month to month. For instance, at the beginning of the year I was reading through a significant portion of Bill Pronzini’s “Nameless” backlist, but last month I was reading Donna Andrews and Janet Evanovich’s new books, as well as some Robert E. Howard.

  49. Gabrielle on #

    I think I probably read more books by women than by men. But I dunno, it’s not like I do it on purpose. I love Scott Westerfeld, John Green, and even Dan Brown, who’s plenty commercial–oh, commercial! I must avert my eyes. But for some reason I pick up more books which happen to be written by women.

  50. Dawn on #

    I agree with Dragonfly…the author being male or female never actually occurs to me as I pick up a book, really. I would probably have to say that the majority of the books I read are written by women, but I love Orson Scott Card and John Green!! I’d say my bookshelf is probably 70/30- women to men authors.

  51. jodi on #

    this conversation made me think back to reading the first harry potter book, and finding out that j.k. was a woman. i wondered then why she chose to use initials? it occured to me that perhaps she or her publishers felt the books would sell better if boys didn’t think harry was created by a woman. it annoyed me, but seemed to make sense at the time – which annoys me now even more!

    my childhood favorites were l’engle and (aha! initials again) l.m. montgomery and c.s. lewis … 2 to 1! which is the same percentage i see on my bookshelves twenty years later. my boyfriend’s shelves are stacked with male authors…unintentionally, but stacked nonetheless.

    i am wondering/hoping that the potter explosion changed anything for that generation of readers, in terms of being likely or more open to read female authors, than other generations?

  52. cbjames on #

    For several years Green Apple Books, one of the better bookstores in the San Francisco Bay Area, had two fiction sections: fiction by women and fiction by men.

    The first time I went into the store I had to keep leaping back and forth between book cases because my mental list of books to buy was not sorted out by gender.

    They no longer sort fiction by gender at Green Apple.

  53. Amy on #

    Apparently I’m not the only one still recovering from hearing Flannery O’Connor referred to as a “lightweight” – whoah.

    I read a mix of male and female, but probably slightly more female than male authors.

  54. Patrick on #

    Flannery O’Connor’s weight isn’t listed in wikipedia, but she does not appear to be a heavyweight in the picture.

  55. ambeen on #

    I think I read books written by women more often than men. It’s not intentional and I didn’t really even think about it until now. I suppose they just resonate with me more. I choose books based on their subject matter, not who has written them. I stick with the authors I like, though, which so far means mostly female authors.

  56. Laurie on #

    As a child I was more concerned about who the main character was — I didn’t want to read books only about boys. That wasn’t too hard when I was choosing my own books, but in school in the 70’s/early 80’s the books they assigned us seemed to always have boys/men as the main characters. Maybe things have become more openminded now as far as school. But I still rarely read books that don’t have a significant female character. And I’m a little suspicious of male writers who write from a woman’s point of view. Which is probably wrong, but, luckily we aren’t graded on our book choices (anymore).

  57. Travis on #

    Well, I’m a guy, and I don’t choose a book based on the author’s sex. Actually, I usually don’t even process the author’s name, nationality, etc, until I see their bio in the back of the book. Most of the authors on my bookshelf are women, but I have a few guys there as well. I think it’s stupid to not read any book based on the author. Gender, race, age, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, appearance, hygiene, and nose size should not be valid reasons to skip a book.

  58. Beth on #

    I never paid attention to gender either but looking back at my last few months of reading, there are more female authors. I wonder what percentage of authors who write fiction are male?

  59. Carbonel on #

    I just read books because the covers are snappy, of course!

    Seriously, the only time the sex of the author comes up is when I do my Summer Reading Booktalks. Unlike all the other talks, which usually support the school curriculum to some degree, Summer Reading is all about The Fun (So I get to do books like Chindogu and Toilets of the World and Her Majesty’s Dod. Thank you for that one Ms. Larbalestier!)

    And every year I have to go back and strike through three or four of the girl books with girl authors to add in a few boy books or boy authors because I’ve got nothing like parity (and you have to have at least 60/40). I don’t plan it! I’m just going for YA books that are peachy keen fun to read.

    And if I read and liked romance and grrrl angst more, that would make sense, but I gravitate toward science fiction, fantasy and adventure. And it’s still mostlly All Girl Action All the Time.

    I think it’s a conspiracy…

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