At the end of 2016 I was at an impasse with my reading. I’d spent a life juggling assigned reading for school and books I could scramble from the library for fun. But during uni I’d let reading for pleasure fall by the wayside. If we’re being honest, I’d let reading for uni fall by the wayside too. But what English Literature student can’t relate? The sheer quantity is a joke. But if I did pick up a book I was usually doing it out of guilt for an essay due. Not to feed my soul.
So fast forward to graduation and it had been years since I had properly read a book, guilt free, that I had chosen for myself. I was so excited to read every book in the world. So what did I do? I read almost none. Partly I was too overwhelmed with where to start and partly I was just being lazy as always. So going into 2017 I knew something needed to change. Books are my favourite thing in the world so not reading them was a big disservice to my authenticity. I decided to take drastic action and vowed to read only women authors for a whole year. It was kind of a fuck you to all the dead white men I’d read at uni.
And thus began my year of reading women.
And you know what I found? It wasn’t even hard. Because there are so many epic women writers in this world, some who get the recognition they deserve and others who sit quietly on the shelf behind the new James Paterson monstrosity. So by reading only women you’re not cutting our thousands of authors you’re actually opening your mind to millions more. On my shelf alone there was hundreds of women I was excited to read but just hadn’t got to. Never mind the gigantic pool the rest of the world also had to offer.
And it was refreshing. What a year to be reading only women when we were out there fighting for our rights and demanding change in a heavily patriarchal world. It was liberating and made me feel so connected to so many badass women. I wasn’t tempted to read a man the whole year because even when I had a hankering for Orwell or Vonnegut or Baldwin I knew I had so much time to read them in the future. Right now they were irrelevant. This was the year of women.
On analysing my bookshelf in January 2017 I noted I had a shocking ratio of men to women. I had about two thirds men. How I’d got to that point I couldn’t tell you. Having about fifteen Shakespeare plays probably didn’t help my case though. So I made a concerted effort to only buy women when I inevitably found myself in a bookstore. The affect of that is I now have more women on my shelf than men. I know. I buy a lot of books. But it satisfies me to look at the shelf now and know it’s properly represented. At least it’s one small slice of diversity out of the giant library of the world.
For 2018 I’ve decided my reading goal will be to now try and read all the unread books on my shelf. I’m postponing buying more new books until my tbr is down quite a bit. Now at my current rate reading my whole shelf could take years but I’m willing to put in the work. Though when January hit I couldn’t quite stop reading women. Part of me wanted to go for round two but I knew I wanted to really get reading everything on my shelf that intrigues me. Man, woman, black, white, Asian, Native American, straight, gay, bi, transgender, cis gender, gender queer, memoir, play, poem, novel, essay. I want to read all the words.
That’s my real goal.
So eventually in March this year I broke my fourteen months of reading women. If you’re gonna do it it’s gotta be with someone boss so I chose Albert Camus. And I don’t regret it but part of me still longs for the glorious days of celebrating women authors.
I learnt a lot from reading women. I learnt that we have some incredibly talented and strong voices. We have important stories to tell. We’re funny as hell. We are deeply troubled by the world we see yet consumed by it’s beauty. We are wise yet we’re never done learning. We want to help people and show them they’re not alone. We want to tell other women to live their truth too. We are badass. And damn, can we write well. Simply, we are storytellers. And I’m so excited to explore thousands more stories and experiences from epic women. So I see many years of reading only women in my future. As well as I’m sure several other reading challenges.
I wholeheartedly recommend a similar year to everyone.
Cos women are boss, duh.
Bitch – Meredith Brooks