In July I wrote an article about gender, and what I read. I read, on average, perhaps 120 books each year. Even with the kid, I'm on track to at least do that again this year (though, my video game playing has significantly decreased). As mentioned in the previous article, over the last six years the percentage of books I have read in a given year which were written by women ranged from 26% and 45%. I noted at the time that the 45% was my progress so far in 2014 and that most years I was somewhere in the 30% bracket.
So, for all the years I have paid attention to the issue of gender, and what I read, I have done a rather crappy job at changing my personal status quo.
Let's actually look at what I did in 2014. The first number represents the count of books written by women, the second is the total books read during that month.
2014: 62/135 (45.92%)
In the end, I stuck right around the same 45% I was at in July, though had I not tanked August I could have been a lot closer to a 50/50 balance. So, given my history of really only reading female authored books three out of every ten times, it's a huge improvement. It's not perfect, but there is no perfect number.
There is no perfect number. The reason I'm tracking this is that a number of years ago I ran across several conversations people about what they were reading, and what does it say if you are only reading books written by men? Hopefully, it means that most of those books you are reading are damn awesome and entertaining and you get full value out of them. As you should.
I noted in July that
I only know about what I know about. Until I had read Elizabeth Bear, I never knew just how much I would love her writing and how she consistently writes novels that blow me away. Until I just read Katherine Addison after years of being aware of Sarah Monette (her real name) but never reading Monette's books, I would never have known just how good The Goblin Emperor was. Insert any writer you want there. Until I read Carrie Vaughn, I turned away from the thought of the modern urban fantasy / paranormal romance with werewolves and vampires. The list can go on (and on) with any number of writers in any genre, male or female, because so often you just don't know until you give a book a go.
That's an important point that still stands. I'm not trying to hit a quota, but I've had a goodly number of women on my "to read" list for a decade without ever picking their books up. Same with those by men (sorry, Peter Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds, I just keep not picking your books up even though I want to). This is about broadening and about discovering awesome writers I really should have been reading all along. C. J. Cherryh? Yeah, she's friggin fantastic but I never read her until 2009 after more than a decade of her being on my radar.
I'm still looking for new shiny things to read, and while I said that I'm not trying to hit a quota, I am consciously trying to read more women. Not because I think doing so is somehow "good for me" or that I'm going to score points with people whose opinions I value, but because there are a wealth of awesome stories out there and if I'm only reading men, I'm missing out on a lot. I'm going to read more of everything. Scott Lynch, Peter Brett, Brian McClellan: I'm reading all of you this year. Kate Elliott, Katherine Kerr, Robin Hobb: I'm also reading all of you this year.
As a side note for where I'm at in 2015 so far, for the first time ever I have read more women than men. I remark on it because of all those years the percentage swung dramatically the other way. This year, it swings in a different direction. Because reading is a conscious choice and there are plenty of books and authors who I know are going to be my favorites and that I'm going to love with a passion. I just have to read them.
As a further side point: I remember being in high school and my father telling me that he made the town librarian fairly mad because she would recommend him books and he told her that he didn't like books written by women. I was shocked and a little upset at the time. Our librarian, who happened to be a woman, was an awesome lady and the best librarian a fledgling geek could have - and she recommended fantastic books written by both men and women. But I never understood cutting off half the population just like that. I also didn't understand how he could tell the difference, except by a name on the cover. Still don't. I didn't get into the fight with him because it wasn't worth it, but it was something that I've remember with a "nope, not going to be like that" firmly planted in my head. I'm going to read it all.