About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gender Reading Analysis

In my reading of mysteries I do not look to the gender of the author to guide my book selection. I read what I think will be interesting. If I am reading for the annual Canadian Book Challenge or the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme I will be influenced by the origin of the author and the letter of the alphabet respectively.

On this quiet winter evening I did decide to check on my reading by gender for the past 12 months. I dislike yearly polls or lists that are for 11 months usually excluding December. For this post I went through the mysteries I have read and reviewed through the past year including December of 2012.

Overall I read 47 mysteries and thrillers. Of that total 13 were by woman authors or 25% of my mystery reading.

I did a breakdown between Canadian books and the Rest of the World.

For Canada 5 of the 13 mysteries or 38% were by female writers.

The Rest of the World had 8 of 34 books or 23%.

The numbers and percentages were lower than I expected. I had thought I was reading more women authors.

I realize my numbers, as a reflection of my reading, can certainly be skewed by the small sample size. Another evening I may go through 5 years of reading to come up with a more representative sample size.

While there is abundant information that a significant majority of the readers of mysteries are women I did not find reliable online information on the percentage of published mysteries being written by women. In Barbara Fister’s 2011 paper, Sisters in Crime atthe Quarter Century: Advocacy, Community, and Change she refers to an analysis of the books submitted for the Edgar Awards being about 50% written by women.
In The New Republic in February of 2011 there was an article, A Literary Glass Ceiling, by Ruth Franklin which, after showing the disproportionate number of male professional book reviewers, stated with regard to publishing:

But let’s slow down for a moment. There’s some essential data missing from these moan-inducing statistics. What’s the gender breakdown in books published last year? It’s crucial to both of the categories VIDA explores, because freelance book reviewers, who make up the majority of the reviewing population, tend to be authors themselves. If more men than women are publishing books, then it stands to reason that more books by men are getting reviewed and more men are reviewing books. So TNR’s Eliza Gray, Laura Stampler, and I crunched some numbers. Our sample was small and did not pretend to be comprehensive, and it may not represent a cross-section of the industry, because we did not include genre books and others with primarily commercial appeal. But it gave us a snapshot. And what we found helps explain VIDA’s mystery.

We looked at fall 2010 catalogs from 13 publishing houses, big and small. Discarding the books that were unlikely to get reviewed—self-help, cooking, art—we tallied up how many were by men and how many were by women. Only one of the houses we investigated—the boutique Penguin imprint Riverhead—came close to parity, with 55 percent of its books by men and 45 percent by women. Random House came in second, with 37 percent by women. It was downhill from there, with three publishers scoring around 30 percent—Norton, Little Brown, and Harper—and the rest 25 percent and below, including the elite literary houses Knopf (23 percent) and FSG (21 percent). Harvard University Press, the sole academic press we considered, came in at just 15 percent.

Franklin concluded by saying 33% of the book reviews she had written in 2010 were of books by women.


  1. Bill - This is really interesting. And I respect the way you go back and reflect on your reading. I think often we have perceptions of our reading that don't reflect what we really do. I know that's true of me. I think you're wise to be aware that the data you looked at in your own reading was only for one year. I wonder what it will be like if you choose to look back over more years...

  2. One suggestion to add to your reading of women authors: Read Sara Paretsky's latest book Critical Mass, goes back to WWII, nuclear arms production, etc.

  3. Very interesting Bill - I love a bit of research and statistics. I might try seeing how my own reading breaks down now, inspired by you.

  4. Bill, I never thought of this. Like you, I too read whatever I think will interest me. A look at what you have read over the year (or years) can shape your reading in the coming year(s).

  5. Interesting statistics, Bill. I have wanted to read books by women authors more equally but have not really succeeded. This has been a topic of discussion at TOR.com (the science fiction and fantasy publisher). One of the reviewers set aside six months to only read and review books by women and see how it affected her outlook.

  6. I think I tend to read a batch of books by women and then switch to a series of books by men, but I haven't looked at my statistics in at least six months. I think it balances out on a yearly basis, or at least that is my intention. Like you, I'm part of a couple reading challenges that skew my reading as well without regard to gender.

    I liked the last excerpt by Ruth Franklin in this post as well. The solution that seems obvious for my personal reading plan is to not limit myself to new books so I can read more books by women. I know that doesn't address the gender divide in the present, but it makes my reading life more interesting.

  7. Margot: Thanks for the kind words. There is a good chance I will make the 5 year analysis.

  8. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I am already one book behind in the V.I. Warshawski series. I have read the whole series except for the last two books.

  9. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I will be interested in seeing an analysis of your own reading. I think we could build some blogger stats by assessing our individual blogs.

  10. Prashant: I am not exactly sure where my analysis will take me but I am going to think about it as I read in 2014.

  11. TracyK.: Thanks for the comment and information on TOR. I have not yet encountered a true study of the issues of reviewing and gender of author.

  12. RebeccaK.: Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Your thought on reading more older books by women is intriguing.