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!
- 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! [↩]
- I knew Scott was a keeper when I checked out his bookshelves and found lots of books by women. [↩]