Wow: *ALL* the books that The Economist cites by its own writers in its year-end ‘what to read’ section are by men! Clean sweep. Good work, boys.
I’ve all but ceased* reading books by white men. I realised earlier this year that almost every book I’ve read in the last 5 years had a male author(!) – except the Wolf Hall duo.
So I’m on a drive to read more by women – and men of colour (I’m not going to boycott Mandela’s book just because he was a guy).
This skew is everywhere. For example, every week, The Week has an author (who needs some press coverage) recommend their fave books. This week, as quite often, they’re all by men.
It’s interesting: I read almost entirely non-fiction (science, maths, history, etc.) and, when I say that it’s mainly by men, people say ‘well yes’, as though women don’t/can’t write such books. It’s nonsense: there’s loads, if you look a bit. Here’s some of what I’ve read this year:
There are two good reasons for diversifying the authors you read. First, to hear new voices and views. White men have certainly – ahem – made themselves heard (e.g., I have a degree in Western philosophy, which was entirely white men). I was inspired a bit by David Evans who’s been reading this year books by authors from every country in Africa. For example, the book Nine Pints, science book about blood, is vastly different because the author is a woman than it would have been if it were by a man, e.g., she describes endometriosis and menopausal depression from her own experience of both.
And second, because writing books is both a consequence of privilege and a cause of it. I say this as somebody who’s written a book. It’s a consequence of privilege because you need time to write: time when your employer pays you to write (senior people seem to get that more than junior people do), or time when you don’t need to be earning – or caring for anybody or commuting for hours. That is privilege. And it’s a cause of further privilege because books turn into speaking engagements, fees, travel, and press articles and hence better networks, clients, visibility etc. Cumulative advantage. In other words, your choice of authors whose books you buy / read / talk about / promote affects where power & privilege go. Be an activist.
So if you’re writing a book & you’re a white guy, get a co-author who isn’t. Share the spoils.
*Not completely. I’m not a fundamentalist.