And here are the results!
To get my own figures, I exported my historical data from Goodreads which includes, among other things, which books I’ve ever added, and whether those books were read, to-read or currently-reading. This gave me 255 books to analyse. This is of course not all the books I have ever read or will ever want to read, but it’s a decent sample size.
From there, I manually reviewed if each book was fiction or non-fiction; if the author was male, female or other; and if the book was mainly about males, females, or was neutral/about both. When deciding who the book was about I took into account mainly who the book was most sympathetic to. For example, I decided the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a book about a woman. It had a male and a female protagonist, but because the plot revolved more around the woman, and because she was the titular character, I decided it was a book about a woman. On the other hand, for example, I decided Lolita was a book about a man. Even though the titular character was female, the story is told from a man’s perspective, and is so entirely about his perspective and feelings to the exclusion of the girl.
First, let’s look at who wrote the books I have read:
I did try to consider if any of the authors were a non-binary gender, but none of them were (to my knowledge).
Next, I broke down the numbers further by looking at the split between the fiction and non-fiction books I have read, as well as the fiction and non-fiction books I want to read:
It’s interesting to note that it’s pretty steadily 3/4 men all round, except for the fiction I want to read. This is not the result of a conscious decision to read more women, but it happens to be so.
Finally, in similar style to the Nicola Griffith article I linked to last week, I looked at who was writing about who out of all the fiction books I’ve read:
So, that’s about two thirds of stories I’ve ever read that have been written by men about men. And even the female-authored stories I’ve read have been more about men than women. What I find most incredible is that I’ve read more stories about women written by men than I have stories by women about women. And compare the blue part of the chart (about men) to the yellow part (about women). Women take the lead in about one eighth of all the stories I’ve read. For every story predominantly about a woman, I’ve read six about men.
The scary thing is, these results came as a complete shock to me. I’ve never tried to skew my reading by gender, I’ve just picked whatever looked interesting to me. So perhaps the bulk of what’s available to me is male dominated, or perhaps I am without realising it a lot less interested in what women have to say. Either way, I have been missing out on valuable perspectives.
I’d love to see a similar comparison done against different lines, for example, race. And I’d love to come back to my reading data in a few years’ time and try this again. I suspect things would be a lot more even then.