I have spent the last 27 years of my life (well more like 21 or 22) thinking that I had a preference for male authors. Recently, while reading a book written by a woman, I realized that perhaps my assumption and my likes were influenced by a societal preference for male authors. In school, I read what teachers told me were the “greatest” or “most” influential books in history. I was exposed to Steinbeck, Salinger, Dickens, Verne, McCarthy, Proust, Joyce, Melville, Tolstoy, Fitzgerald and the like, however, books handed to me authored by women were limited. The books that I did read by women were rarely to my taste and even more often not of any interest to me. I read Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Dalloway and books with plots that I couldn’t relate to in the way I related to adventure stories and coming of age stories written by men. Had someone handed me Anthem, Ordinary People, Out of Africa or The Bell Jar, perhaps I would have more quickly learned that books by women could also be great.
My bias for male authors has never been questioned, not by me and never by others. As I have grown older I have hung on to this bias despite being raised as a feminist by a second-wave mother. Her liberal views apparently did not translate to my reading habits. My father introduced me to adventure novels and accounts of exploration, which have long been at the top of my list. Seeking out these books always led me to recommendations about what other books I might like. Largely recommended were books others had read or been introduced to through a male centric society. As a result, I began to believe that women didn’t write adventure novels or stories of explorations despite knowing that women went on adventures and explorations. My view on books became misogynistic and narrow, which left me close minded until I actually began to question my own reading choices.
It is for this reason, that I have decided that over the next year I will read 52 books written by women. I have begun my journey already and have finished The Mothers and The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, both of which I received from the book of the month club. I am not really sure where this blog will go, but I do hope that someone else will find it and expose his/herself to authors and genres that they perhaps haven’t given a chance.