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This Just In: Women can write, too! Or, books by female writers in "top" lists

It seems to be that time of the year in which book lists are totalled, tallied and printed -- it would seem, looking at the numbers, to the delight of male authors and the dismay of female authors.

Publisher's Weekly recently put out their Top Ten Books of the Year list, and an excellent (and funny) blog on the wonderful site SheWrites did a breakdown of the list: to wit, while this year half of the ten on the list are female-authored works, last year's list was all male and 90% white. The blog ended by exhorting SheWriters (hey, that's me!) to keep our eyes on other lists and to see what we see. Which took me to Amazon's recently published Top 100 books of the year list. 

The top 100 editor's picks: Out of the 100 admittedly great books listed here, 38 were written by women. So 62% of the Amazon's editor's picks were authored by men. It's not a great balance, but it is better than the only books on the list being written by men. 

Of the customer's favorites, I was even more surprised: only 26 out of 100 were female-authored books. 

The American Library Association list for young adults broke the 50% list, and was the first in which I was pleased to see female authors so strongly represented -- and for once, it was a list in which I was inclined to assume that the initialed names were names of women, not men. 

Does this mean that publishing opportunities are better for women in YA? or that people are more inclined to believe that a work of fiction (or nonfiction, even) is more momentous, more serious, and more important if a man has written it? 

Either way, I agree with the venerable SheWrites -- keeping an eye on these lists, biased or weighted though they may be, is a way to keep a finger on the literary pulse of the publishing world. And if we as female writers are going to make it in the publishing world, we need to know what the odds are -- stacked to towering over us, slowly levelling, steeply in our favor, or somewhere in between. 

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Food for thought

I'd be curious to try a survey or study: Give people books to read unnamed authors -- leave off their names -- read them solely on their content/merit, not giving any indication if it were a man or a woman who wrote the book. It's not complicated. Just go blind as to sex of writer. Then, show me a list.

It could be that we are very inclined to accept violence, aggression, power, forcefulness and action as meritorious features of an author's voice.


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Very true... And whether we

Very true... And whether we realize it or not, we associate those qualities with the sex of the writer. We assume, perhaps, that a male writer's work will be more direct, more hard-hitting, more action packed or gritty or serious, and that a female writer's work will be more paced, emotion-oriented, passive, etc. Which, if you peruse the bookshelves, is a stereotype for a reason -- there's something to it. But do female writers write that way, or male writers, because they are writing to the audience, or is the audience responding to the writing? It's the Schrodinger's cat of gender-based literary theory! :)

But I like your idea. Take the names off, and let's make a list from that. That would be sooo interesting...maybe I should make that my masters' thesis. :)