Read More Books By Women (You Won’t Regret It)

by Patrick on May 15, 2009

Yesterday, The Elegant Variation linked to this list of the Top 100 novels in the English language compiled by Dick Meyer on the NPR site.  He freely admits that his “taste is probably medium-brow, male and parochial in many ways. Tough. It’s my list.”  I can respect that, though I think his list could use more women.  Quite a few more, actually.  I’m not one for setting quotas but when you only have seven (7!) books by women on your list of a hundred, well, you should probably read more women.  Indeed, Girls Write Now, an organization that mentors “the next generation of women writers,” remarked on Twitter:  “This is why we do what we do.”

Obviously, this is just some guy’s list, but it does reinforce a prejudice that exists in American literary culture today.  The writer Maureen Johnson sums it up nicely, I think: Once again, men write “important books,” and women write . . . books for LADIES, perhaps? Or, no. Now I remember. Chick lit and fluff.” Just a few days ago, my wife noted that while reading is considered a feminine activity (she was pointing out that we know lots of women who read, but not a lot of men), yet writing — serious writing — remains the domain of men.  This shouldn’t be the case.

When people talk about the “Great American Novel” (a subject that I’d be happy relegating to the dustbin of conversational history), the names that get thrown around are almost always men, first and foremost.  And, well, that should stop.  Read some women, guys (I think most women read both genders, though not always).  Otherwise, you’re missing out on a complete life.