Books written by women…
What are your favourite books? Are they written by a man, or a woman? Or don’t you know? Or care? The numbers tell us that women buy and read more books than men. But women, by and large, get shoved to the literary sidelines. Women will read books written by women. And – astoundingly – they’ll read books written by men. But men don’t tend to read books by women. Or so the received wisdom goes.
So the good folk of the Hay Festival, and one of my favourite websites, The Pool, have partnered up to celebrate 100 years since *some* women got the vote. They’re looking for 100 books by women from the last 100 years that deserve a whole lot more love, in their #VOTE100BOOKS campaign.
We’re a pretty equally gender-balanced team in the Wordscapes studio. Some days a little more female, some a little more male, depending on who’s in and what they’re up to. But, overall, publishing employs a stack load of women – according to a survey by bookcareers.com, which reckons nearly 85% of the people working in publishing are women.
As Yomi Adegoke points out in The Pool article that introduces the campaign, ‘at one point, last year looked as though it may have provided something of a tipping point: the UK’s top 10 bestselling authors of literary fiction featured only one male writer, Haruki Murakami, and was topped by Margaret Atwood. But, despite their dominance in that one genre, they made up less than half of the slots in the Bookseller’s overall UK Top 50 bestselling authors of 2017. That list was topped by David Walliams. Only three women writers made the top 10. Cast your gaze a bit further – to the review pages, for instance – and the story is equally bleak, with the majority of reviewers and reviewees being male.’
I’ve just finished Leila Slimani’s Lullaby, and have been recommended Naomi Alderman’s The Power – with its fabulous cover (I love to judge a book by its cover, but always avoid reading the blurb on the back…) I’ll be trying to decide between Margaret Atwood, Donna Tartt, my recent discovery of Maggie O’Farrell – I cried when I finished This Must be the Place – Zadie Smith, Angela Carter and Maya Angelou. Oh, and Jilly Cooper. I’ve loved a Jilly Cooper since I was a teenager.
What are yours?
You can nominate your favourite female writers here: https://www.hayfestival.com/vote-100-books/, or share them online with the hashtags #VOTE100BOOKS on Twitter @hayfestival, Facebook /hayfestival, or Instagram @hayfestival.