Last year, I set myself a challenge to read a new book per week. I managed to read 50 books, which I was pretty happy with. This year*, I decided to only read books written by women. Here’s what I learned.
Obviously, COVID had a fairly negative effect on my reading rate. I went months without touching a book, and some evenings I could only get a few pages in before giving in to the need to doom-scroll. I love reading recreationally, and I need to get back into the habit. I wish I could read while exercising. So I was pretty pleased to finish 42.
(OK, some of the authors are non-binary. And I cheated with a new Terry Pratchett picture book and a couple of the other books were compendiums which had male and female writers. Oh, and This Is How You Lose the Time Ware has a male and female author)
So, why this challenge? Last year, 50% of the authors I read were female. But I reckon I have a gender deficit across my lifetime. Most of the time, I don’t really pay attention to the race or gender of the authors – if indeed I notice them at all. But it is good to correct imbalances in our life.
Women write great books. They also write terrible books. This doesn’t come as a surprise, I hope. I’m sure that I could do some analysis to show that female academics use different word-length than male authors. But who can be bothered with that?
I try to read an equal mix of fiction and fact and, again unsurprisingly, there was no shortage of great books to choose from.
Sometimes the challenge was frustrating. One of my favourite (male) authors released a long-awaited book, which I couldn’t read. Of course, the lovely thing about books is that people rarely post GIFs with spoilers in them. That book will still be there for me to read next year.
After the horrors unfolding around the world, I deliberately set out to read more books about racism. They were eye-opening. Especially “Brit(ish)“.
It is fun reading books from people who have different experiences and backgrounds to you. This challenge wasn’t about escaping my bubble; it was about managing the bias accrued from a lifetime of living inside it.
What’s my challenge for next year? I think just to read more. And read more widely.
* My new year runs from my birthday. I shall not be bound by the tyranny of the Gregorian calendar!