Monday, December 26, 2011

What I'm reading in 2012, part III

I can see that I'm going to need some help.

Now, if you take a look at my Amazon wishlist, you'll see that there are enough books by women to get me well into 2012. The trouble is, they're on my Amazon wishlist and not on my bookshelf. What if I need a book right now?

I was in the Dallas airport the other day, worried (justifiably) I was going to finish Wizard of the Crow before I got home, so I took a spin around Simply Books. As airport bookstores go, it was reasonably sized, although no Powell's. It was the kind of bookstore devoted to the reader of bestsellers. Technically, I could have read any book I wanted, since it's still 2011, but I couldn't help but noticing the selection.

First off, everything in the "science fiction" (understood to include all speculative fiction) by women was straight-up urban fantasy. Vampires, werewolves, and demon-hunters, oh my! No, I know it's not all crap, but it's not generally my thing. Where were the Elizabeth Bears, Vonda McIntyres, and Joan D. Vinges? It turns out there was one Bear, on the "new fiction" shelf.

Second, all the books by African-Americans were in African-American fiction. Not in "classics" or "famous authors," where I would put Sapphire or Toni Morrison, but right next to the Hoodwives books. "Famous authors" is reserved for white guys writing thrillers and white women writing mysteries (plus Carl Hiassen and Ncholas Sparks). Hasn't this pissed enough people off yet?

Third, those people who argue that spec fic readers have an advantage over mundanes because they're comfortable exploring new ideas and worlds, and might therefore handle the apocalypse better, have clearly not looked at what's not the shelves lately: It's all the zillionth tale in the Dune or Wheel of Time or Star Trek sagas. Whatever their entertainment or literary value, these books are not going to make your head explode with novelty.

Clearly, most of what I'm looking for is out in the long tail, except for A Visit from the Goon Squad and romance novels. Literature, at least the most visible, is still gendered: Female authors have a strong showing in the mystery, romance, urban fantasy, young adult, and Moving Family Saga areas. Male authors have a strong showing in the science fiction, thrillers, westerns, horror, and Real Literature areas (with a respectable tally in mysteries).

So, are the books I want to read not being written by women, not being accepted by publishers, or not being mass marketed? Because, let's be entirely fair - 19 out of the 90 books I gave five stars to on Goodreads are written by men, even though my reading is about 50/50. Moi may be part of the problem.

My conclusion is that I need more ideas of what to read; going to Book Culture and judging books by their covers may actually be effective, but it is not efficient. Are there books I'm dismissing as Moving Family Sagas I might really like? Is Brian Sanderson actually the pen name of a woman? (That's a rhetorical question, folks.)

So what do you suggest? Keep in mind, I need books by women. Also, please don't suggest The Help or The Hunger Games. I don't live under a rock, and if a book is hyper-famous, I've probably already decided whether or not I want to read it.

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