Analysing My Reading By Author Gender

There’s an ongo­ing… let’s call it debate (substi­tute lecture or fuss if that suites your posi­tion better) on the subject of the repre­sen­ta­tion of female authors in fantasy and science fiction.

I steer largely clear of it because my job as a reader is simply to read what I enjoy and I’m neither a published writer nor a publisher. But it did make me wonder how my own read­ing was split. Going into this I strongly suspect that the authors I read would be predom­i­nantly male.

So I grabbed my GoodReads book stats, pruned down the records to fantasy, science fiction and graphic novels  etc. (the genre stuff) and then did my best to iden­tify the author as male or female.

That gave me a healthy sample of 365 books to work with and the break­down as I antic­i­pated was over­whelm­ingly towards male authors.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Before I go any further a note of caution on the statis­tics here. They’re imper­fect at best. I don’t neces­sar­ily know the gender of every author I read. I don’t really care to be honest, and some use delib­er­ately neutral names or pseu­do­nyms of vari­ous sorts. Plus there are books writ­ten by more than one author.

And that doesn’t even touch on the murky area of non-binary gender which I really don’t want to touch for the purposes of feed­ing my mild curios­ity about my own read­ing habits.

Also, while there do seem to be patterns here. Keep in mind that a lot of data is not being analysed. Factors that should really be consid­ered include when I read the books and when the books were writ­ten.

Charts, Charts and More Charts

Books Read By Gender of Author


So that’s inter­est­ing but not terri­bly enlight­en­ing. Does this result stem from a clear pref­er­ence for the works of male authors?

Median Ratings By Gender

Well based on the median ratings I’ve given it seems that is a possi­bil­ity at least. Although keep in mind given these are medi­ans and the ratings gener­ally jump in whole numbers… that differ­ence is actu­ally not as large as it looks.

So then I decided to break things down by genre and see if the gap was consis­tent across all of them. And I think this is the most telling of all the charts really.

Books Read by Gender and Genre

You can largely discount the Urban Fantasy cate­gory as it’s a rela­tively small number of books and it’s being skewed by the fact that I faith­fully follow the Dres­den series (so that’s about a third of those books). Fantasy is remark­ably balanced. I’d basi­cally call that a tie. So really the issue is only show in Graphic Novels and Science Fiction.

Again though. Why the differ­ence? Guess what… I have a chart for that!

Median Ratings by Genre and Gender

First off I’d like to pat myself on the back for being such a good judge of what I will enjoy. My median scores never fall below 3!

But the point is there’s really not much in it at all when it comes to my enjoy­ment of the books whether they be writ­ten by men or women. In fact in science fiction it’s a dead heat and in graphic novels we’re talk­ing about a half point score differ­ence.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

Well… nowhere honestly.

I already knew there was a gap of some sort (though it’s larger than I antic­i­pated) but my moti­va­tion when pick­ing out books is whether I think I’ll enjoy them and clearly I’m doing that quite well. So I don’t intend to start target­ting based on gender or any other factor.

But the strength of the gap in Science Fiction and Graphic Novels despite my appar­ently enjoy­ing female author’s work just as much does suggest that the issue is one of availability/awareness of books of this sort.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?