Books About Women, Part 1

I have been working on something of a larger blog post, which I’m going to post here in two pieces.

A while ago, a friend posted this article on Facebook, which I would highly recommend:

Writer Unboxed – The Problem With Female Protagonists

It’s written by a female author with a young son, to whom she reads bedtime stories every night. When her son asks her one day “Why do we only ever read books with girl main characters?” she digs through the contents of his reading shelf and they find out if that’s true. The result? 27% of his books featured female protagonists, while his impression was that he was reading about nothing but girls.

So why were girls so underrepresented in his reading, when the truth was quite the opposite? The article comes up with a range of interesting examples and explanations, and I highly recommend it.

Then I remembered another article I’d read some time ago:


Books about women don’t win big awards: some data

When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male. I analysed the last 15 years’ results for half a dozen book-length fiction awards: Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award, and Newbery Medal.


Nicola Griffith analyses the recipients of various literary prizes, assessing them according to if the author was male or female, and if the protagonists were male, female or both. Her findings? We value male storytellers more than female, and men and boys as the subject more than women and girls.

I’ve been interested to know since then how my own readings stacked up, so I downloaded data on every single book I’ve ever loaded onto my Goodreads account, and analysed them. Next week, I’ll be sharing my results.

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