I’ve been reading articles lately about gender bias in book reading and reviewing. It seems that men don’t read books by women, and ‘serious’ (whatever that means) publications are reluctant to review commercial fiction by women.
They’ve made me think about my own bias, because if there is one, it definitely runs the other way. I blog YA book reviews regularly on the http://www.paisleypiranha.wordpress.com site, where the vast majority of books I’ve reviewed have been written by women.
But I don’t think this is a conscious bias towards women writers (there’s plenty of Anthony Horowitz and Nicholas Fisk and Isaac Asimov on my bookshelves, too). If anything, it’s a bias towards female protagonists. Like (I would imagine) all readers, I want books that interest me, and I want to sink into the world of the book and become the main character for as long as it lasts. It’s easier for me to do that with a female main character because she’s “like me” from the start. These are mostly written by women, so most of what I read is written by women.
It’s probably also a result of the fact that the majority of my friends (both writing and not) are also female, so book recommendations tend to be from females, and they all seem to like female protagonists and women writers, too.
When I look back over recently-read books, and cast an eye over my bookshelves or my eReader, I see that they are mostly female main characters, but there is enough variety that I’m not worried by a potential gender bias – I’m more concerned by what looks a lot like a white-British middle class bias. There are few books I read that feature characters who aren’t – or can’t be imagined by me as – white and British. Part of that is probably because I imagine the characters as some form of ‘me’ whether they are or not (and that might be a good thing, because we’re all human in the end), but I’d like my reading to take me out of myself now and then, as well as taking ‘me’ into a different world.
So, it looks like I need to gain some variety in my to be read pile by adding books that don’t feature white, well-educated, able-bodied heterosexual Brits (but still commercial and fast-paced, please) – any recommendations, anyone?