Here’s a dare: do a Google search of “100 best books of all time.” Next, pull up the first three or four results in separate tabs. Finally, scan each list and count how many novels by women are represented.
When I did this experiment, I could count the number of female authors included in these lists on two hands, and a few of them were repeats (mainly Virginia Woolf and…shudder…Ayn Rand).
With the world spinning in the 21st century, I can’t comprehend that books authored by women are still snubbed the literary literati. Yet historically it makes complete sense. Women were dissuaded from creating original pieces of art, including writing fiction. If a woman was allowed to write creatively at all, she was most likely confined to writing non-fiction works and domestic how-to articles. It has only been in the past century that women writers have been granted access into the fiction sphere. Sadly, we’re still playing catch-up; it’s hard to compete with a gender that had a few thousand years’ head start.
Enter my new year’s resolution: the Misandry Book Club, an entire year of devoting myself to reading and discovering female authors. Every month, I will read two novels written by women. Personally, I can’t commit to reading only novels by women. But according to my personal rules, I can’t replace a female author with a male author. For example, I have S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst on my list to read during February. However, I’ll have to complete S during my “personal” time in between the mandatory two female-authored books.
I can’t take claim to this idea or even the name. An online acquaintance completed the book club “challenge” last year and raved about it. Regardless of the inspiration, though, I think the idea is absolutely splendid. Just like a white American from the South reading Things Fall Apart, reading a series of female authors after being slammed with male authors my entire life is going to be an immense but welcomed change. I’ve always been surrounded by male authors during the majority of my childhood and education. We studied writers like Kerouac, Homer, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Kipling because they wrote stories that male critics have deemed historically significant. While these men might be considered prolific writers, it’s difficult to see varied views of the world when the people creating the discourse are all white men.
It’s no secret that women see and experience the world in a completely different way than men. Thanks to women’s advances in society, women can now share their experiences through their own stories. I have no doubt that this next year will open my eyes. And while I think there are good things to be gleaned from authors regardless of race or gender, I’m incredibly excited to finally surround myself with novels that will speak to me and my experiences as a woman.
Jessica LeAnne Jones is a writer living in the American Southeast. Frequent hobbies include gaming, writing, napping, and inserting her cats’ names into love songs.