There was a bit of a stir in the literary world recently. Esquire published a list of 75 books every guy should read. Esquire is a men's magazine, so it stands to reason that such a list would be dominated by male authors. A lot of people have taken umbrage with the list because it includes just one female author, Flannery O'Connor. Even for a men's magazine the list seems out of whack.
This got me wondering about gender bias in our reading habits. Are we more likely to connect with books written by someone of the same gender? My guess is that we are, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It doesn't mean guys should only read books written by guys, and women should only read books written by women. Not at all. I guess that's my problem with Esquire's list. By including only one book written by a woman, the message seems to be that guys shouldn't waste their time reading books written by women. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hell, I checked out three books on my last trip to the library with the girls, all written by women.
Esquire's list got me thinking. If I were to create a list of 75 books that I think everyone should read, how many of those books would be by women? I know the top spot would go to a woman, Harper Lee. I know books by Katherine Dunn, Kate Atkinson, Geraldine Brooks, and Toni Morrison would make the list. I'm sure there would be other books written by women, but I have a feeling a considerable majority would be books written by men.
My list would certainly be more inclusive than Esquire's, but there would still be some gender bias. Some degree of gender bias is probably unavoidable when it comes to our reading choices. I may be putting this too simply, but guys can relate to a male point of view more easily, and women can relate to a female point of view more easily. I don't have a problem with that. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule of course. I hate to break it to the people over at Esquire, but Flannery O'Connor isn't the only female author their readers should be checking out.
All this begs the question: do you think it's easier to connect with books written by someone of the same gender? And if so, is that a bad thing?