Are People Sexist When Reviewing Books? Does it Matter?

Yesterday I read an article from Guardian about how male writers consistently have more book reviews and are book reviewers than women. The quote that really sparked off the comments though came from Sir Peter Stothard who claims that even though the gender issue is “not a small matter” he feels that “while women are heavy readers, we know they are heavy readers of the kind of fiction that is not likely to be reviewed in the pages of the TLS” (Times Literary Supplement).

After some brief research I found that Stothard had posted a reply to the criticism where he says that he wasn’t trying to suggest that books written and read by women are inferior. He was just trying to explain that “There [are] many popular genres, romantic and certain kinds of historical fiction, for example, that had long been dominated by women writers and readers, which [are] not much reviewed and would distort a proper comparison.” He goes on to explain that “there [are] other genres, little reviewed, that are similarly dominated by men.” So it is all up to the genre, not the gender, whether a book gets reviewed or not.

I also stumbled across an article from the Seattle Times that states that 64% of the book purchases in 2009 in America were made by women “even among detective stories and thrillers, where they buy more than 60 percent of that genre.” These facts and comments lead to some questions:

Should book reviewers (not just TLS) worry that they are not reviewing as many of the kinds of books that the people who are buying the most books (women) will be interested in?

Since reviewers aren’t reviewing as often the kinds of books that women (who buy the most books) are interested in, are reviews helping books get sold?

Should writers focus on writing something for a specific gender audience (male or female) or should they just focus on the genre that they are writing and hope that it appeals to both genders?

Let me know what you think!

3 thoughts on “Are People Sexist When Reviewing Books? Does it Matter?

  • February 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm
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    It’s hard to give definite answers to any of these questions. I’ve read “boy” books and loved them, and there are some “girl” books I just can’t stand. I think J.K. Rowling was brilliant in purposefully not giving out her first name, thus making the book market just a tad easier to conquer.

  • February 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm
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    For me I definitely prefer the genre to whether an author is male or female. Both males and females can write poorly and well, and as long as the story is good, who cares?

  • February 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm
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    I agree with Laura. Until I started writing, I never worried about the author. If I liked the book – I liked the book.
    I’m wondering though – because my husband is biased and I think, perhaps, men are more so than women – if that is why the reviewers (male) are biased as well. Do men really value another man’s thoughts over a woman’s?
    In any case, I think it stinks that women have to give up their name just to sell books. (J.K. Rowling – and locally – N.C. Allen, H.B. Moore – shall I go on?) Women shouldn’t have to hide behind half a name to get a guy to buy a book. In the end, is there anything we can really do about it?

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