The Year I Read (Almost) No Men

Like many others here at the Riot, I’ll be diversifying my reading in 2014. Looking at my Goodreads stats revealed a couple of obvious gaps in my reading. Writers of color were grossly underrepresented, but I’m already working to remedy that.

Sometimes a lack of reading diversity doesn’t look the way you’d think it would.

Sometimes, on first glance, it looks like this:

boys_ew

At least, that’s how 2013 looked for me.

I’m not a misandrist. I like men. Hell, I married one. Sometimes I even think men besides the one I entered a legal agreement to nod and smile at are interesting. Still, my most surprising shortcoming was the number of books written by men on my 2013 list—barely 25%. Of those, five titles were by Neil Gaiman, and three were by George R. R. Martin.

“Oh-thirteen” was apparently just the Year of (Almost) No Men for me.

Despite a great deal of thought, I’m not sure why I didn’t read more books by male authors. It wasn’t a conscious decision, nor (obviously) was it the lack of representation that often keeps writers of color from being read. It wasn’t even that I lacked interest in them: I picked up and abandoned at least one Neil Gaiman book, a Murakami, a McEwan, others—all of which were either already on my shelves or purchased in 2013. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I really hate the way their female characters are written. As opposed to the way George R. R. Martin’s female characters are written?!?!?!!!?!, you might be thinking. YES.

Though it has been argued (wrongly) that men are simply better writers in whom more readers are naturally interested, I found that my reading slumps came not from a lack of interest in reading more books by ladies, but instead at the same times they have every year since I started keeping track—-midsummer and early winter—and seem to coincide with the times I was always super busy with school/college/grad school. Which I finished seven years ago. Old patterns really are hard to break.

You know how people say you crave certain foods, maybe even ones you’re not crazy about, when you’re vitamin or mineral deficient? I mean, I’m not a nutritionist so I have no idea if that’s true (it kind of doesn’t sound true), but maybe that was the reason: maybe the so-called “unlikable” characteristics (aplenty!) I possess needed to be nourished by Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and The Woman Upstairs. Perhaps my goth lite-teen inner child was starving for the Wicked Lovely series that I finally got around to finishing.

Who knows? If I’ve implied that I’ve figured it out, let me clarify that I haven’t. There are a billion different reasons (at least) that we’re readers, and those reasons exert their influence on every single book we decide to read; I’m pretty sure there’s a fascinating field of psychology here.

Are there gender gaps in your reading? Is it intentional? Do you even care? I fully acknowledge a tendency to obsess over these sorts of things.

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