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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Year in Review: Author Gender Distributions

This time I am looking at counts and ratings based on author gender. When I started tracking my reading on goodreads, it wasn't with the intent of doing this kind of analysis, but I was kind of curious to see if my expanded horizons over the last few years included more books by women.


Way back in 2009, I went to WorldCon, and recognized almost none of the names in the program. I found myself feeling like my reading had gotten into a bit of a rut. That I was mostly reading the same authors I had since high school, plus recommendations from a small number of friends. While I was enjoying what I was reading, I thought I should maybe try out some new stuff. 


Which meant revising my discovery process.


For Christmas that year I got a Kindle. There were two readily apparent changes. First, free books! Second, packaging no longer had as negative an impact on my reading. So, 2010 saw me reading a lot of urban fantasy, a genre which tends to have covers trashier than I am willing to be seen with, and mmpb's which I kind of hate as a format.


2011 was the first year I added someone on goodreads that I didn't already know elsenet.  And 2012 saw me expand my RSS subscriptions to follow more book reviews. And in late 2013, I joined BookLikes and started following even more new people.


Over the last five years, my discovery process has moved from "Is there a new Gene Wolf book?" to something that involves reading a wide range of reviews across several sources - and seeing if there is a new Gene Wolf book, obviously. In that time, I ditched a job that took most of my waking hours for one with a 40 hour work week, picked up an audible subscription, and attended a few more science fiction conventions. 


Basically, I'm reading more books, in more formats, with a broader range of sources for information. 


I'm also still reading mostly speculative fiction. No need to get too carried away.


So, how does that five years look in terms of author gender:


 Gender breakdown of authors I've ready, by year, over 5 years.


A few notes on this chart. Each book gets one author total, so in the case of Lewis Padgett, that's .5 M and .5 F, and James SA Corey is 1 M. I excluded anthologies, non-fiction, and middle grade or younger books. Anthologies because I am too lazy to figure out how to fit them in, and the others because I'm not usually reading them idly.  And I did assigned based on how the author was presented to me. Meaning MLN Hanover is male because that pen name is openly used by Daniel Abraham, and Lewis Padgett would have been male if I hadn't picked the book up because I knew it was written by a husband and wife.


Also, while I know gender comes in a wider array than the binary I am using, I didn't read any books by authors who didn't pick he or she as a pronoun. (That's on me. Maybe this year?)


See 2009? One book by a woman?! Like I said, kind of a rut.


I'm kind of surprised about 2013. I didn't feel like I was reading a lot of books by women, but apparently I was. Huh. 2010 having been the year I started seriously reading UF, it's less surprising. Of course, if I'd counted individual authors instead of individual books, that year might look a lot different. I read kind of a lot of Carrie Vaughn in 2010.


So, that's interesting. I wonder if this change in volume and consumption has impacted the enjoyment I get out of books? Conveniently, I rated most of these books after I read them. There are a few that I just can't rate on a 5 point scale, so if the averages and counts seem off, it's because something didn't have a rating.


My first pass at this had two obvious results. First, I'm getting more enjoyment out of reading (or maybe being less stringent on ratings?). Second, my average for books written by men is higher. Not significantly, there's less than half a star's difference. But that still seemed odd to me. So I added a new code to my data and made a second average without romance novels. Basically, romance is a genre I keep trying and failing to enjoy. I've only liked 1 romance novel in the last 5 years, and it was the kooky, insane one that was Weird Science gender swapped, with some handcuffs thrown in for good measure. Taking that out raises the whole line up.


Graph of average ratings for books by male and female authors, by year.


Also, here's the tabulated numbers these graphs were generated from, in case you can't see the images:


  Who Did I Read?    
  Total M F  
2009 15 14 1  
2010 27 9 18  
2011 36 21 15  
2012 38 25 14  
2013 44 16 28  
  How Much Did I Enjoy It?    
  Average M_Average F_Average F (No Romance)
2009 3.2 3.2    
2010 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.4
2011 3.1 3.2 3.1 3.2
2012 3.6 3.7 3.4 3.5
2013 3.8 3.9 3.8 4.0


I'm not sure if I have learned anything from this. Perhaps I should stop trying to read romance novels as I measurably don't enjoy them? (I really don't mean to slag Romance as a genre. Ratings are subjective. Me not liking it just means I don't like it.)


Sarcasm aside, it looks like diversifying my reading selection has been a net positive for me in terms of how much enjoyment I get out of books. 


I'm off to read another one!