In honor of High Fidelity, I have been compiling a list of my own All-Time Top-Five favorite novels. But I couldn’t limit it to five, because, although I could put five novels in the top slots, I could not dismiss the rest of the list. But before publishing today, I decided to browse Freshly Pressed, and so discovered a problem with my list (and even more, with my reading.) Here is my list (Maybe you will see the problem right off, but I didn’t.):
- Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen
- Grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck
- A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Book Thief Markus Zusak
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Last night at the Lobster by Stewart O’nan
- Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
I’m a little nervous to tell what the problem is, because I don’t want to diminish the importance of the books I have chosen in any way. In my opinion, they are all worthy to be there. All of these books mean something to me personally, and I feel they have great potential to influence society. For example, number 9. I am lucky to have had Stewart O’nan as a customer somewhere I used to work years back, so I’m probably a little partial. However, he is a phenomenal author with the ability to capture the essence of everyday life for the everyday person. Not doctors, lawyers, private investigators, FBI agents, but in the case of Last Night at the Lobster, restaurant workers. His work is deep and resounding, and important.
With that said, here is the issue I found with my list. I read this blog post on Progress on the Prairie and came across the idea that women writers are underappreciated (to say the least) in the publishing world, and in the realm of literary criticism. Obviously, this under appreciation can affect readership. So, looking at my own list, I realized that only 2/10 (20%) are by women.
This realization raised some questions for me. Do I read mostly male authors because of the influence of the education system (many of these authors were read in school, while my literary tastes were forming)? Or is this, as Progress on the Prairie suggests a problem of sexism within the literary world? Is it both? Is it something else entirely? These questions certainly deserve some digging around on DuckDuckGo.
But for now, it will suffice to say that whatever the cause, I have made a definite commitment to read more women authors. After all, women are a necessary part of life, and a wonderful part of society. We have much to contribute, and we should learn from each other, grow from each other, and help each other be heard.
I’m curious to know, what are some of your All-Time Top books (regardless of gender of author)? And what are some of your favorite works (fiction or non-fiction) by female authors?