You will understand my title even if you don’t know what a hashtag is (a twitter thing) or have never heard that 2014 is the year of reading women. It started when Joanna Walsh, writer and illustrator, decided to call 2014 ‘the year of reading women’ and sent Christmas cards listing 250 names to encourage recipients if not to read women exclusively at least to look up some of the named writers. From this #readwomen2014 grew. She wrote on the Guardian blog about it: Will #readwomen2014 change our sexist reading habits?

100 BookshelfI’m not one of those who have decided to only read women writers, but I do want to do my bit to encourage people to read women, especially in the face of fewer women getting published, fewer women’s books being reviewed, and fewer women reviewers. (See the VIDA statistics for the record of different publications, aka the hall of shame). And there are days at a certain literary festival where there are no women featured at all. We need #readwomen2014.

Some reviewers, prompted by #readwomen2014 decided to read, and therefore review, only books by women in 2014. An American journal, Critical Flame, decided to go one step further and dedicate 2014 to women writers and writers of colour. This kind of action challenges the idea that white males set the standard and are the default position for how the world is to be seen in fiction: through the male consciousness. It encourages diversity.

It’s an attractive idea – expanding reading horizons. You could look at the gender balance of your recent reading*. Or of the books on your shelves. Or of the books in your local library. You could ask yourself how any imbalance has come about? How much is it to do with how you find out about books?

Last week I heard about a newly established mixed reading group, who picked their books for the first year, and not one of them was by a woman. And no one present had noticed.

83 BWPFF logo biggerSo in the spirit of #readwomen2014, and because this is my 100th blogpost, and because the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 will be announced this week, I am using my blog to wholeheartedly recommend reading more fiction by women (and, yes, to split an infinitive or two!). So here’s some suggestions from Bookword blog, with links to the posts.

Everything on my older women in fiction theme is by women. You can find these by clicking on the category link on the right. My review of Margaret Laurence The Stone Angel has been consistently one of my most read posts for over a year.

Elizabeth Taylor – novels and short stories (link to reviews by clicking on the category link).E.Taylor 1

Elizabeth Bowen – In the Heat of the Day.

Claire Cameron – The Bear (longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize).

Ruth Ozeki – Tale for the Time Being.

Jean Rhys – Good Morning, Midnight.

Ann Tyler – almost anything by her, and I reviewed The Accidental Tourist.

Carolyn Heilbrun – Writing a Woman’s Life for some non-fiction.

musselfeast_web_0_220_330Foreign fiction by women should not be ignored either. Try The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, translated by Jamie Bulloch. It has just been given a special mention at this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

And Tove Jansson – The Summer Book.

*I checked my reading record over 12 months and it is 70/30 in favour of women. Perhaps I need to read more male writers.


More about #readwomen2014 in Guardian article by Alison Flood.

And for an excoriating post about the label ‘women’s fiction’ see Joanne Harris’s blog Capitalize This.


So: will your next book be written by a woman? Tell us one of your recommended reads by a woman.


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Filed under Books, Elizabeth Taylor's novels, Libraries, Older women in fiction, Reading, Reviews

8 Responses to #readwomen2014

  1. Thanks for this Caroline. In an appropriate moment of synchronicity this blog showed-up while I was thinking of what women authors to check out as recommendations for a book-group I’m thinking of starting in Follaton.
    I confess I am one of those readers who probably tends to read more books by men than by women. When I have read women’s work it has tended to be shorter fiction e.g. short story collections by Jackie Kay, Victoria Hislop and Rose Tremain.
    I might add that I don’t read very much fiction by gay writers either – men or women. So perhaps there is, even subconsciously, a bias towards (often) white, male authors – many of whom are dead, and were probably heterosexual!
    Thanks once again for making me think. I’ll check out some suggestions for women’s work…

    • Caroline

      Glad you want to think about including [more] women writers. I have enjoyed Jackie Kay very much (including in person – a great reader of her own stories). And Rose Tremain, both long and short fiction, and who I admire because of her ability to research and produce fiction about very different people and periods.
      I hope your reading group goes well. Let us know who your discover and who your group enjoys reading.

  2. Thanks for this reminder – I looked at my reading booked and it’s 70/30 male writers. I also hadn’t done this check. My recommendations are for Debra Levy’s Swimming Home and Things I Don’t Want To Know, both awesomely funny and sad in equal measures. X

  3. Hi Caroline,
    I really enjoyed your post. It made me think about the authors I choose, and I choose authors for all different purposes. I have read many of Joanne Harris’s books, and thanks so much for linking to her wonderful post! Go girl is what I say. Such an important message. There is still so much discrimination around, it is so insidious that we often don’t recognize it until it is pointed out. I think traditionally writers of literature have been male, or women writing with male pen-names. That is changing with superb writers like Joanne Harris, Ruth Ozeki, Maya Angelou and others you mention, and others you don’t e.g. Kate Morton, Di Morrissey, Maeve Binchey, Catherine Clement and Kristin Williamson, many of whom are Australian authors. But there is still a long way to go with this, as well as other aspects of women’s rights (and writes). I think #readwomen2014 is important in raising consciousness. Until that occurs equality won’t exist.

  4. Good points well made, Caroline, although I have to say it doesn’t chime with my personal experience. Like you, I tend to read mostly women writers, although it isn’t deliberate policy, and I’m slightly concerned that my debut novelists Q&A’s are ninety percent with female authors:
    What really concerns me is the old tendency to dismiss women’s plotlines about relationships etc to “the domestic” while it’s interpreted as boundary breaking when addressed by a male author.
    Tootling off to look at your review of The Accidental Tourist – love that one.

  5. I also read and review books written by women. I am interested in how and when they offer a different viewpoint from that of men. I also read many male authors, but often I find it easier to relate to the stories by women. I particularly like fiction by women of color. For a time I hosted a website on Global Women of Color which has lists and reviews from a variety of people. If you are interested in women writers, this site and my blog are full of suggestions for some excellent reading.

    • Caroline

      A belated thank you Marilyn. I hope you get more readers on your website. I visited Global Women of Color some time ago. Also the source of good women’s reads.

  6. Eileen

    Yes – my reading is probably 90/10 in favour of women and to link this blog with your movie one I think The Accidental Tourist film was really great. I love all Anne Tyler’s books. And I love all of Barbara Kingsolver’s too.
    Love, love, love

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