I only read sci-fi & pop-sci books by women in 2016, and this is my list
Two years ago, I made my New Years Resolution to read one fiction and one non-fiction book each month, and I’ve (mostly) kept it up since then. But towards the end of 2015, it suddenly occurred to me that the vast majority of the authors I read were men. So, I made my 2016 resolution to flip that ratio, while still sticking to the genres to which I gravitate, namely science fiction and popular science (with a bit of history thrown in).
Before I get to the list, I feel like these posts typically have a “what I learned from it” component. The only real difference I found was that there were far more female characters involved or female scientists highlighted — and for their research, not their sex. I certainly didn’t lack for subject variety — I read about gravitational waves, extinction theory, Antarctica, parasites, machine learning and the women who were the first “computers” on the pop-sci side, to the absolutely-bonkers 14th century in Europe, the Great Migration, and the U.S. criminal justice system on the non-science history side. All the sci-fi novels I read were entertaining, thought-provoking, and full of rich world-building like any other good sci-fi — just with greater representation of women in the action.
I realize some people might think this is a useless exercise, or “reverse sexism.” I’d say it’s more in the model of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s response to “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?” — when all nine justices are women. I went a year reading books that were ~90% by men (realistically, many more years than that), without it even registering. The goal should be to get to the point where it isn’t considered weird or “SJW” to read books 90% by women, as well.
The key point to me is visibility — the reality is that women, in many fields, struggle to gain visibility for their accomplishments. I’d assume for genres like popular science or science fiction that it’s similar to Hollywood, in that backing work by women is seen as a “gamble.” I’m aware that my individual Kindle purchase doesn’t amount to much, but if more people adopt a similar strategy and recommend these books to their avid-reader friends, then it starts to amount to something of significance.
Going forward, I’ll aim for closer to a 50/50 ratio and diversify my picks along other lines, such as ethnicity, religion, and gender identity. As anyone who reads a lot can likely attest, it’s always such a challenge to narrow down your next book selection from the thousands of options available. So to all who might potentially hate on this strategy, just view my method as a particularly socially-conscious selection engine.
Without further ado, here’s my reading list from this past year, including links to each book’s Amazon page so you can learn more — I make no illusions about being a masterful book reviewer, but just assume all of these books get a hearty thumbs up from me.
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman
Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent by Gabrielle Walker
Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabelle Wilkerson
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch Book 1) by Ann Leckie
Bloodchild: And Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (the token male author ;)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
Synners by Pat Cadigan
The Waves by Virginia Woolf