Best Books?

November 13, 2009

Today on the blog, members are debating Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2009 and the marked lack of female writers on the list (none in the top 10, and only about 30% of the total). Are men really better writers than women? The SheWrites members who have taken the time to post on this subject ask many interesting questions, and make some good points. In response to this list, today, Nov. 13, SheWrites is encouraging its members to buy books written by women and post which book(s) they’ve bought and why. “As the Publishers Weekly article proves, men are still taken more seriously. Their books are seen as better, more valid, and about more universal (not girly) topics.” writes Lea Beresford, in “Ask an Editor: Men, Women, Books.”

I’m not sure what to think about this. I find it hard to believe that male authors’ books are really that superior to female authors’. I would be interested to know how many books written by men vs. women are published each year, as well as more details of how the “best” books were chosen. But lists like this are important to authors, because they give them needed exposure. As a consumer, I’m more likely to pick up a book that I’ve heard of somewhere, on some type of recommended list or in a book review.

I read a lot, but the gender of the author is not a factor in my choice of reading material. I choose books that sound interesting to me, or that are recommended by someone I respect, or books that I feel I should read that are related to my work with Mothers & More. Since I keep a record of what I read each year (I know, that’s how compulsive I am), I thought I’d go back and see how many male authors vs. female authors were on my list. Much to my surprise, female authors outnumbered male authors two to one. I’ve read books by women more than twice as often as I’ve read books by men! I didn’t set out to do this. The titles, very few of which were published in 2009, include classics, murder mysteries, biographies, nonfiction, self-help and essays. My top 10 favorite books of the year (so far) would include seven books by women and three by men.

What about you? What do you think about the Publishers Weekly list? Why do you think no female authors appear in the top 10 and does that make any difference? What are your favorite books of 2009 and why?

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  1. Has anyone looked at the purchasing demographics of who is buying what? That may offer a few clues as to what's going on.

    But as to men actually being better, no, but stereotypes die hard. Very hard. And you don't find many men covering things like shopping, eating, menopause, getting fat, wandering if something makes them look fat, etc. A woman can write espionage, war, sci-fi, etc. AND all of the above. Not too many men are that versatile.

  2. One of the other bloggers on SheWrites also noted that women are more likely to read a "man's" book (whether it was written by a man or is just more geared towards a male audience)than men are to read a "woman's" book, for what that's worth.

  3. So basically we're more open-minded, interested in others, and curious about the world as well as willing to see or "read" someone else's viewpoint?

    Really? ;•)

  4. You've probably already seen this, but the Washington Post printed an op-ed on this topic recently. I thought it was worth a read.

  5. Sarah: Thanks for sending me the link--I hadn't seen the article yet. I think it's interesting how ingrained our biases are, and as such how difficult to fight.