Back in February K. Tempest Bradford issued a challenge for people to read other than straight white males. The internet (at least some of the white male science fictionally inclined parts of it), as is expected, blew up. Bradford was called pretty much every nasty name in the book and some nasty names off any books. Other people defended her challenge, of course, including people like Neil Gaiman (who was apparently supposed to have taken great umbrage at the fact that his book was used to make the point, but in a human-like move did not) and John Scalzi.
I more or less dismissed the challenge. “I don’t need a challenge to make me read people other than straight white males,” I kept saying. “Already the majority of my reading is women only,” I said. And then I did the math. According to Goodreads, last year I read 127 books as defined by Goodreads (this includes comics etc). 52% of those were written by women. So to an extent I was reading a majority of female authors, just not nearly as much as I thought I was. Off the top of my head I was guessing that the number of books I read written by women would have been closer to 80%. I had fallen to the old trap of 33% women equals at least half.
None the less, I won’t be cutting out straight white male authors out of my reading, partly for the same reasons as Scalzi isn’t. I’m not a professional making a living at this writing thing yet, but I am someone trying to break into the fields of science fiction and fantasy and as much as I hate it, most of the prominent professionals in that field are straight white males. But I will endeavor to do better. So far this year I’m doing worse at 48%. By the end of the year I will do my best to have read at least 60% people who aren’t straight white males. My current goal for 2015 is to read 130 new books which means that I need to read 78 books fitting that description. I think that’s completely doable, especially if I’m paying attention.
If you want to join me, here are some books by women that I’ve already enjoyed this year:
- Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (steampunk “seamstresses” with a diverse cast and a mecha battle. What’s not to love?)
- The Witches of Echo Park by Amber Benson (A young woman slowly comes to realize that she has a bigger purpose in life as she deals with the failing health of the woman who raised her.)
- The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kahtryn Rusch (A complete must read for anyone thinking about or actively seeking a freelance life)
- Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (The harrowing tale of an American volunteer pilot in the second World War ending up in a nazi concentration camp.)
- The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia (A tale of power and control from the point of view of a clockwork woman, eager to be in control of her own destiny)
- Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (A story about looking for redemption.)
- Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire(Werewolves, Australia and Seanan McGuire. There isn’t enough squee in the world for me to express how much I loved this book.)
And here are some books I’m really looking forward to getting around to read this year:
- Symbiont by Mira Grant
- A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire
- Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
- Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire (which I am fervently hoping will get released some time this year)
- Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia
- Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
PS. Check out Bradford’s video series where she talks about the books that she recommends.