I’ve never been good at keeping track of the books I read. Basically, I read a lot, and tracking is not as fun as reading. But in 2017 I finally decided to keep a list of the books I read. I created a simple excel spreadsheet with the book title and author, date I finished and a single-line review. I also decided to put the author’s gender in a separate column to see just out of interest what the gender balance was of authors that I read. Given that I know way more female authors than male I expected that my reading balance would reflect that.
My first few weeks of tracking proved me wrong. I get a lot of books from friends, relatives, op-shops and libraries as well as new from physical and online bookshops, and what I pulled out of my reading pile in the first few weeks of 2017 was this:
It genuinely shocked me that over a period of just over two months I had chosen to read 75% male authors and I realised there must be unconscious bias in the authors I had learned to ‘trust’. I also realised over the course of 2017 how little Australian fiction I was reading. The only Australian author in the sample above is Foz Meadows (highlighted orange).
That was when I remembered the Australian Women Writers Challenge. My friend and fellow writer Heather Ewings participates in the challenge, and it seemed the perfect way for me to improve the gender balance or authors I was reading and also to learn more about Australian fiction both new and old – which is important to me because despite a wide variety of influences, I see myself very much as an Australian writer.
Without formally signing up I’ve followed the challenge all through 2018, reading the round-ups and Twitter conversations and discovering heaps of great Australian writing, and with my blog now up and running I am finally in a position to join in the fun. In 2018 (what’s left of it) I’ll be aiming for the Miles category, where I read at least 6 books by Australian women writers, and review at least 4. My first review will be of Hannah Richell’s gorgeous book ‘The Peacock Summer’ which I’m enjoying at the moment.
I get to add a badge – yay!
For those who are interested I’ve posted the rest of what I read last year until I stopped tracking in September (woops! I’ll try again in 2019!). Again, Australian authors are highlighted orange. You can see I re-read most of Sue Grafton’s novels and some others that I had read multiple times in my early 20s (Guy Bellamy and Armistead Maupin) and in August I judged the Stringybark Dog Eat Dog short story competition, to which I assigned the gender F because most of the contributors were female. In my early attempts to add more female authors to my embarrassingly male-dominated list I also discovered the British novelist Bernice Rubens (Booker Prize 1970 for The Elected Member) whose novels I loved; I couldn’t believe I had never come across her before. I picked up two of her novels at the fabulous Last Books on South King Street in Newtown.