Reading women

by Suw on April 29, 2013

Last month, when I wrote that we need a female Dr Who, I was struck by the fact that, in the discussion on Twitter, quite a few people were mentioning female writers that I hadn’t heard of. I realised that my own knowledge of women writing in my favourite genres of science fiction and fantasy was lacking. I have vowed to remedy this through the simple expediency of reading the same number of books by women as by men. I couldn’t easily remember how many books I’ve read this year, though, so decided to list them (series are listed on a per book basis). I’ll keep this list up-to-date as the year wears on.


  1. Anne McCaffrey, Crystal Line (in progress)
  2. JF Penn, Pentecost (in progress)
  3. Rosemary Sutcliff, The Eagle of the Ninth
  4. Rosemary Sutcliff, The Sliver Branch
  5. Rosemary Sutcliff, The Lantern Bearers
  6. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
  7. Helen FitzGerald, The Duplicate (novella)


  1. James Henry, The Cabinet of Curiosities (in progress)
  2. James Everington, First Time Buyers (short story)
  3. Nick Spalding, Love, From Both Sides
  4. Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair
  5. James Oswald, Natural Causes
  6. John Scalzi, Old Man’s War
  7. F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  8. F Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and the Damned (abandoned)
  9. Lloyd Shepherd, The English Monster
  10. Danny Rubin, How to Write Groundhog Day (non-fiction)

To reach a nice state of equilibrium, I need to read three books by women next. Already on my Nook I have Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City, Kelly Link’s Strange Things Happen and Magic for Beginners, Mercedes Lackey’s Secret World Chronicles, and Mimi Johnson’s Gathering String, and I do want to finish the Hunger Games trilogy so that’s another couple of books.

On my list of books to buy are Jo Walton’s Among Other, Sarah Pinborough’s A Matter of Blood, Jane Margolis’ Unlocking the Clubhouse (non-fiction), Cate Gardner’s Theatre of Curious Acts, and Molly Tanzer’s A Pretty Mouth. Who else should I add?

Milena Popova April 29, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Right, let’s see if posting from my phone works, and if I can remember what I said on Twitter.

Assuming you’ve read Le Guin.

I would highly recommend Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, though stay away from the sequel.

I still like some of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s work, particularly The Forbidden Tower.

Manda Scott’s Boudica series is very good, as is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

The Tiptree Award anthologies are awesome (though not all contributions are by women).

If you want a set of four sci-fi works themed around gender and anthropology you could do worse than Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Ruins of Isis, Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (which I find a tough read but still valuable), Ruth Nestvold’s short story Looking Through Lace (in one of the Tiptree anthologies but I think also available for free online and one of my favourite short stories ever) and Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite.

Oh, and the other experiment worth doing is seeing how many of the books you read pass the Bechdel test. I tracked this over about 18 months a while ago and the results were abysmal. Would be interesting to see how that varies with gender of author too.

Christine Cavalier April 30, 2013 at 3:27 am

Thanks for the great list. New ppl on there I don’t know, so this is very exciting. Going to put them in my Goodreads queue tomorrow. Women authors get the beatdown everywhere: NYT never reviews them and recently Wikipedia editors (mostly men) were taking women out of the list of “american authors.” It’s ridiculous sexism and sad that we miss out on amazing voices. I’m so happy my husband has discovered Zadie Smith (literary fiction) and Suzanne Collins and others. He had been told a lie, a falsehood, an evil image of women’s supposed inability to be powerful writers. We’ve all been told that lie. Thanks for waking us up again. A good ol’ slap in the face never hurt anybody. And that’s the truth!

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