Male vs. Female Authors on my Bookshelf

male vs female authors

Every couple of months or so some well-intentioned woman or ally shows up in my feed and tells me that I need to purposefully choose books by female authors, otherwise my own subconscious gender-bias will cause me to mostly read books by men. Or, a variation, that since the industry is gender-biased I would by default end up reading more books by men. Normally I completely disregard these posts. I can not usually be bothered to look at the name of an author before I choose a book. I read what sounds interesting, and a lot of the times when I’m done and writing my review I find myself digging for the book and saying “Who was the author again???” It’s unlikely that I will change this habit that I’ve been building since I was in elementary school when I would literally walk up and down the aisles with my eyes closed to pick a book at random. (I do NOT recommend this as a book-choosing method as I rarely found books I enjoyed.) Sorry, not sorry.

Most recently, however, someone directly aimed a comment at me telling me personally that I needed to be intentional. This person, I happened to know, reviews mostly young adult books. I couldn’t help but sigh and roll my eyes. If there’s one genre I’m confident I’m reading PLENTY of books by women in, it’s young adult.

Which got me thinking. I mentally went through my bookshelf and thought of my favorite books.Β The more I thought, the more it seemed to my brain that I actually read MORE books by women. I’m sure that’ not the case, it’s probably closer to 50/50, but it really got me wondering.

So I thought it might be fun to actually go count.

Rules

  • Count ALL authors in a genre, even the embarrassing ones
  • Only count an author once, regardless of how many books they’ve written
  • If I know for a fact they used a pen-name, choose actual gender
  • If I don’t know the author’s gender offhand I must look it up, I can NOT skip the book!
  • Books with multiple authors that have both genders will be skipped.
  • Genres will be chosen based on how they’re organized on my bookshelf. For example, I have mystery mixed in with fiction because I only own like, 3 mysteries. So no mystery genre.

Hypothesis

“Classic Literature”, which on my bookshelf is defined as any realistic fiction written before I was born, will certainly be dominated by men. I don’t feel bad about this as there’s not a lot I can do to change the way women were treated in the past. Science Fiction may also be skewed in favor of men, we know it’s a male dominated genre, however my sample size is so small I’m not sure it’s REALLY representative.

Young Adult I think will have about twice as many women as men. I also predict that my “Contemporary Fiction” (any realistic fiction written after I was born) will have more women authors, though not by as large a margin.

I’m most interested to see the outcome of kids books, since I’ve been collecting those for about 30 years, there’s a whole bunch of them, and the times they have a changed since I was a kid.

Well… Here goes nothing!

Classic Literature

  • Male Authors: 25
  • Female Authors: 12
  • Notable books by women:
    8497928289663th757LOPXM

Contemporary Fiction

  • Male Authors: 13
  • Female Authors: 16
  • Notable books by women:
    51vPXr7ganL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_4667024o-WHERED-YOU-GO-BERNADETTE-MOVIE-facebook

Science Fiction

  • Male Authors: 10
  • Female Authors: 1
  • Notable books by women:
    1656001

Fantasy

  • Male Authors: 14
  • Female Authors: 7
  • Notable books by women:
    113721551GfkFJuPCL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_22544764

Kids

  • Male Authors: 16
  • Female Authors: 25
  • Notable books by women:
    51HSkTKlauL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_Ella_enchanted_(book_cover)363618131

Young Adult

  • Male Authors: 5
  • Female Authors: 7
  • Notable books by women:
    276705271LkLmxqgjL

Religion

  • Male Authors: 19
  • Female Authors: 2
  • Notable books by women:
    13544022

Non-fiction and Memoirs

  • Male Authors: 12
  • Female Authors: 10
  • Notable books by women:
    4885586009160695

TOTAL

  • Male Authors: 114
  • Female Authors: 80

AAAAAAANNNNND just for funsies let’s look at the books I read last year, because obviously I don’t own every book I’ve ever read.

  • Male Authors: 14
  • Female Authors: 27
  • Notable books by women:
    51nTreUEtgL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_228404212205526225489134332890746197518081809

Okay! So some of what I was expecting, some of what I wasn’t! I’m frankly shocked at how few young adult books I have. Almost all of them are by Rick Riordan. I guess I don’t keep very many of those books, because I read plenty. Certainly explains why my margin was so off, looks like I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my YA books by women. Most of the rest of it was about what I expected.

EXCEPT. The overall number. I didn’t know what to expect, but not to own almost 40 MORE male authors! Breaking it down, this mostly because of 2 genres: classics and religion. Classics I said from the beginning I knew would have a lot more male authors, but I was genuinely surprised about how many more men there were on the religion shelf. I guess in hindsight IΒ shouldn’tΒ be surprised, because the church has never been known for giving voice to women. Even in the 21st century so many evangelical Christians believe that a woman has no place as a teacher. Too bad, really. (In my own defense, almost all of the religion books belong to my husband, anyway.)

Still, overall I don’t think this shows a disproportionate number of books written by men, ESPECIALLY when you look at how many books I read written by women last year (most of which were checked out from the library and therefore are not on my bookshelf). Literally, guys, I read almost twice as many female authors last year. I think it’s safe to guess that without thinking about it I probably get a close to even mix.

What I think would be a much more interesting conversation would be the number of books on my bookshelf written by minorities. Because if I’m being honest, it’s probably not a lot. But that’s a bigger discussion for another day.

28 thoughts on “Male vs. Female Authors on my Bookshelf

  1. This sounds like an interesting exercise. I wonder what’s on my bookshelves?

    Although, that said, I’m not going to read a book just because the author is female if I don’t like her writing style. And I won’t dismiss a male author just because of his gender. For me, I pick up books that seem interesting to me. Give me a good story. That’s all I ask.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Okay, so I just did a quick inventory of my last library haul. Female Authors 8 to Male Authors 7.

        Fantasy/Fairy Tale – Male 2 (a bit surprising?)
        Non-Fiction – Female 2
        Religious – Male 1
        Adult Fiction – Female 2
        YA – Male 2 (very surprising!)
        Middle Grade – Female 5; Male 2

        Re: Foundation. Is this by Isaac Asimov?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Most of the books I read are written by women. I think the only genre that I read more books written by men is True Crime and I listen to those in audio. I don’t think I’m doing it on purpose I just read a lot of YA.

    I’m taking an inventory when I get home. Interesting idea.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. OK, so I have more books by men than I thought I did, but still mostly women.
        I have 3 books by Stephen King, all of John Green’s and John Irving’s novels, the Hamilton Book that Lin-Manuel Miranda put together, Hitch Hiker’s guide and Sherlock Holmes collections and then a handful of YA books written by Men. But I do have two whole bookcases, 6 shelves that are all women. It was a cool exercise.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. There are a lot more female science fiction authors than people think, though they’re often harder to find. Plus, it seems that, while men push the boundaries of science, women push the boundaries of humanity and so aren’t given the same sort of press. I’m currently obsessed with Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, and was blown away when I read Ursula K. LeGuin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’.

    And now that I think about it, a lot of science fiction by woman that I can think of right now is more genre bending, blending science fiction and fantasy elements, like C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy, or Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen or Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, see I have Pern under fantasy, because I’ve only got the first book, and it hasn’t started hinting at the Sci-Fi aspect yet. Loved it though! I really really really need to read some Ursula LeGuin. To be honest, I just don’t read that much Science Fiction, pretty much only things that are gifted to me. Don’t know why, I LIKE Science Fiction, I guess I just like Fantasy better. *shrug*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The premise of Pern is science fiction, in that the first people on Pern were colonists from Earth who were separated from the rest of the massive group exploring space. I forget why they couldn’t leave the planet, but they were stuck there. Then the Thread came along, and they realized they could genetically engineer the little native lizards to work with them to save the colony from the Thread. I think there was a novella or short story that told that story. The rest of the books follow the colonists and their descendants, and that’s the part that turns into fantsy, because of the feudal system and dragons. But the foundations of the series are based in science fiction.

        Definitely give The Left Hand of Darkness a try. It’s part of a series, but works as a standalone, too.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’m vaguely familiar with the Pern origin story (more familiar now!), I just have a hard time with series, so I just read the first book. Probably keeping it in fantasy because, you know, dragons. That’s where the rest of the dragon books are.

          I definitely love the blurred lines between science fiction and fantasy. Star Wars, for example, doesn’t exist in a universe that follows our physical laws, so in that way it’s a fantasy, yet the plausible technological advancements, especially the droids and space travel, make it more science-fiction. Any book, like Pern, that blurs the line is exciting to me!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Right? I’d keep it in fantsy, too. It just has that feeling of magic. C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy has a similar premise, where Earth colonists end up on a new planet that changes them over time. There’s a scientific reason for the way the planet is, but it feels more like a fantasy. It’s much darker than the Pern books, though.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like an interesting idea. It would be a bit of a time consuming one for me though, as I own 9 completely full bookcases, which probably amounts to something like 2000+ books. But I still might give it a go and see what kind of male/female divide I have in my collection.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I agree; if it’s interesting to me, I’ll read the book. Gender doesn’t affect choice. Someone who writes well, writes well. I wonder, though, if women are more often rejected for material that men could easily publish (e.g. scifi?).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know, but I’m sure there are authors and such people out there talking about it. I do know that the publishing industry largely favors white men, but I’m not sure how overt it is. I only do this for a hobby, haha.

      Like

  6. This was such an interesting breakdown! And yeah, I don’t think it’s disproportionate when you look at the genres and at the books you actually read last year. Cos my book collection is mostly in storage and is otherwise all over the place, it’d be pretty difficult to do this, but I had a quick look at GR and this year I’m currently on 60% female authors. I should be totally ashamed of my count last year though- I only had 49.5% female authors πŸ˜‰ I must be incredibly biased against my own gender πŸ˜‰ (incidentally, I had a comment not long ago saying I was sexist for not having enough female authors on a favourites list, which was a bit weird, especially coming from a bloke πŸ˜‰ )

    Liked by 2 people

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