Wednesday, December 29, 2010

thoughts on The Economist's best books of 2010

Russell subscribes to The Economist. I don't read it regularly, but will flip through an issue from time to time. Yesterday Russell pointed me to the "Books and arts" section of volume 397, issue 8711 (December 4, 2010) thinking that I'd like to see which titles the magazine had decided to include in their listing of the best books of 2010.

As expected I jumped straight to their picks for fiction where I noticed something quite strange. Seven books (Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, To the End of the Land by David Grossman, Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey, The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris, Mr Peanut by Adam Ross, The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, and Selected Stories by William Trevor), all written by men.
Now, I don't always keep on top of all the new releases, but I know that there were were at least a few outstanding offerings from female authors this year. After all, five of the fourteen books on the Man Booker Prize longlist were written by women.

My perusal of the rest of the lists yielded only three titles obviously written by women. There were quite a few authors with ambiguous names, though, so I did a little digging today. Here's how it played out:
Politics and current affairs: 10 books, 1 female author
Biography and memoir: 4 books, 1 female author
History: 8 books, 2 female authors
Economics and business: 3 books, 0 female authors
Science and technology: 6 books, 0 female authors
Culture, society and travel: 4 books, 0 female authors
Fiction: 7 books, 0 female authors
Poetry, 2 books, 0 female authors
That's 44 books: 40 written by men and 4 written by women. Really? really?!

Well, congratulations to Rachel Polonsky (Molotov's Magic Lantern), Lyndall Gordon (Lives Like Loaded Guns), Amanda Foreman (A World on Fire), and Isabel Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns) for beating the odds to get onto The Economist's decidedly gender-biased best-books-of-2010 list.

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