R.O.W.E. Week 3: The Great Book Inventory

I’m Brianna Kratz, a Chicago poet and reader. For 2016 I am reading only women authors for my Read Only Women Experiment (R.O.W.E.). For weekly updates on challenges, conversations, and monthly round-ups on books I’ve read during any given month, keep up with me via Goodreads or Twitter.

Bookshelves. Photo courtesy Andrew Gingerich
Bookshelves. Photo courtesy Andrew Gingerich

I rearranged my book shelves to separate the men and the women. They were getting a little uncomfortable sharing such close quarters during this year of reading only women. I should warn you that these are not all of my books, they don’t include the books that are still packed in cardboard boxes nor the books in the trunk of my car (or in my sidekick’s car). That’s right, I’ve got books in the trunk of my car.

I am a Prohibition Era book smuggler. Gif courtesy Andrew Gingerich
I am a Prohibition Era book smuggler. Books not included in count. Gif courtesy Andrew Gingerich

My final count is 84 men and 79 women. It was surprising that my count was so close to even. I fully expected for men to win overwhelmingly because the majority of the books I read for university classes were written by men (Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the rest of the boys’ club). I was surprised and smug about the almost even split.

I did some research to learn which writers are alive and which are dead (thank you, Google). 85% of my female writers are alive, and 48% of my male writers are alive. Perhaps the Shakespeare, Chaucer club swayed the count. If I did more research to learn about the cultural backgrounds of the writers on my shelves, it’s easy to see that they would be overwhelmingly dead, white men.

I did an informal survey of my Facebook friends, and I learned:

1.  One friend has over 900 books which is more than her movie collection, so I wouldn’t ask her to count.

2.  One friend’s count was an even split between men and women.

3.  One friend had 152 men, 28 women, and 4 co-written books.

4.  One friend is doing the Read Women Challenge too! SOLIDARITY!

It feels like a cop-out to say that the number of books a person has for each gender varies from person to person. I had a really small sample size, so can I draw any substantial conclusions? Probably not.

Look through your book collection. Buy more books by women, folks. Or use the library. The dead white men don’t need your money.

Currently reading: Alif, the Unseen by: G. Willow Wilson

Brianna Kratz
Brianna Kratz

Brianna Kratz has a B.A. in English Writing from Illinois Wesleyan University where she learned the importance of "the poetic turn," the difference between thee and you, and how to read Middle English. She lives on the Internet where you can find her on Twitter and Lens & Ink.