A Year of Books by Women

The first thing I did after college was commit to a year of reading books by women and non-cis men. It’s been a full year since I began my quest to read books by women and that year has come to a close. Since May 2015 I have read:

  1. Doomsday Book*
  2. Parable of the Sower*
  3. The Poisonwood Bible*
  4. The Lady Matador’s Hotel*
  5. Dreaming in Cuban*
  6. No One Belongs Here More Than You
  7. We Have Always Lived in a Castle
  8. The Terrorists of Irustan*
  9. The Red Tent*
  10. Memnoch the Devil*
  11. The Vampire Armand*
  12. Somewhere Beneath These Waves*
  13. Honor
  14. Ten Thousand Saints
  15. Lost Boi
  16. Mothers Tell Your Daughters
  17. Boneshaker*
  18. Women Destroy Fantasy!*
  19. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  20. Life as We Knew it*
  21. Woman on the Edge of Time*
  22. Citizen**
  23. The God of Small Things
  24. The Goblin Emperor*
  25. Bad Feminist**
  26. Love in a Torn Land**
  27. The New Jim Crow**
  28. Sweet Hell on Fire**
  29. Blood and Belief**
  30. The Story of Zahra
  31. The Alchemy of Stone*
  32. Interview with the Vampire*

*indicates the book was speculative/genre fiction in some way

**indicates nonfiction text

A combination of nonfiction, poetry and fiction, books I had not read and books I was re-reading, books I read with students and books I read on my own, it has been a pleasure to read female authors. Yet my year of reading books by women has come to a close. In fact, that year technically passed last week. I can read whoever I want now.

I want to continue to read books by women.

It’s not that female writers necessarily write more developed female characters (I have a particular irritation with Anne Rice on this point) or that female writers have stronger writing, but reading books by women for a year has changed my perspective on how to be a female writer and a female reader.

I’m far more critical than I ever have been of how a text represents women. Is there representation? Is she there for the male gaze? Is she a plot device? From my work writing literary magazine reviews for New Pages (where I don’t have the option of filtering out male authors) I’ve had time to compare how women write women versus how men write women. Unsurprisingly, women often have the upper hand in crafting women with interiority and nuance. I searched for feminist fiction, specifically feminist speculative fiction, and I have found it. Whether overt (the entirety of Woman on the Edge of Time) or through subtle choices by the author (Kivrin in Doomsday Book), I have found it. And there is so much more to read.

Since reading books by women, my writing is more female oriented. I write primarily about the relationships between women, whether romantic or platonic. My writing has become more queer (literally and metaphorically), because women and female relationships are now at the heart of what I write.

I am not done reading books by women and I invite you to join me. It’s never too late to continue, just as it’s never too late to start.