I can't remember exactly how I stumbled onto this debate yesterday (originating here, with some statistics by VIDA about the proportion of books by women, and books reviewed by women, in some major US literary journals) but it chewed up a good few minutes of what was already a fairly unproductive day.
Suffice to say that the results are both horrific and unsurprising. And I'm sure if anyone did a comparable study of Australian book reviews, the situation would probably be even worse.
Just out of interest I decided to do a quick breakdown of the books I've read in the last year. (This task was made simple by my handy-dandy book diary.) This was the result:
I was actually really surprised by this. I expected my reading to be far more heavily weighted toward books by women. I think of myself as a biased reader, consuming far more women writers than male authors. So what were all these blokes writing about that I was lapping up so avidly?
As I made my very quick, unscientific, superficial count, I did notice that the blokes' list leaned markedly to the comic end of the spectrum - Stephen Fry, Bill Bryson, Richard E. Grant and Nick Earls were all over-represented. Male authors also accounted for the majority of football books read (ahem!) and a fair proportion of the history books. The other significant chunk of books-by-men consisted of children's and YA titles. Again, I was a little surprised by this. I tend to think of kids' and YA as a fairly female-dominated field. But my brief list reminded me of the excellent books I read last year by the likes of David Almond, Steve Augarde, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Russell Hoban, Mal Peet, Tim Pegler...
So what's missing? There is one big, obvious hole in my blokey reading, and that is male-authored literary fiction. The reason? Well, to be perfectly honest, I find a lot of books by literary blokes... well... boring.
But perhaps that's a topic for another post.