Books read, February 2012

Only, um, a lot late.

Something interesting I’ve noticed: so far this year, every bit of fiction I’ve read has been by a female writer. (There’s been some male-authored nonfiction and gaming material.) Granted, partly that’s because of the disproportionate weight carried by Diana Wynne Jones. But given that I’ve been working entirely from my own bookshelf in choosing what to read, that actually makes me kind of happy; it means I am not, as many people do, skewing unconsciously toward men in terms of what books I read and talk about.

On the other hand, there’s this bit of number-crunching, which shows to the extent that we’re approaching parity on book reviews, a lot of that is driven by women reviewing women, counterbalancing the men who who mostly review men. And even then, we’re not at equal numbers yet.

Anyway, last month’s books — before we get any further into this month.

The Kingdom of Benin in the Sixteenth Century, Elizabeth M. McClelland. Research. Dissected elsewhere.

Emerald Empire Gaming book, for Legend of the Five Rings. Extremely satisfying, in that it consists almost entirely of cool and/or useful setting information one could use to flesh out a game, rather than the D&D model of “spells, feats, magic items, and a few prestige classes, and we’re done.” L5R has a track record of being good like that.

Archer’s Goon, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

The Political, Economic, and Social Structure of the Kingdoms of the Western Sudan: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai (Gao): A Comparative Study, Maxwell Owusu. Does not have the problems of the other book. Beyond that, it’s an extremely dry (and short) academic read, that sent me down Nostalgia Lane over the archaeological discussion of urbanization and state formation that were current when this book was written . . . in 1966.

Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal. Austen plus magic, but not in that “toss in some zombies and call it a day” fashion we’ve seen elsewhere. The major thing I would say about this one is that a lot depends on the expectations you go in with: as more of a fantasy reader than an Austen reader, I found myself reflexively looking for more oomph, that wasn’t there: the stakes are very Austen-ish, which is to say personal rather than epic (though the resolution is definitely flashier than Austen would have done). I think it succeeds at what it’s trying to do, though, so as long as that’s what you’re looking for, it’s a good book. Taking it on its own terms, my only real quibble is that I would have liked it to dig into the gender issues a bit more deeply.

Power of Three, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

UNESCO General History of Africa, vol. III: Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century, ed. I. Hrbek. Partial read. This is an abridged copy, but I’ve never seen the whole thing anywhere — and that’s probably fine for my purposes, since I skipped half the book anyway. It’s a collection of extremely academic articles on topics on African history, many of which were either on regions I’m not currently looking at (like the Maghrib) or topics not useful to me (like a study of coinage and where it was minted). But I read the bits on West Africa, and they were helpful.

A Tale of Time City, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa, Patricia and Frederick McKissack. A short book, and possibly one intended for kids, but it’s the best resource I’ve yet found for daily-life description of the Western Sudan prior to the European influx. In contrast to McClelland, the authors here are scrupulous about noting where they’re getting their information from, and when those sources contradict one another. Occasionally this comes across as sort of patronizing, but you know, I prefer that to the alternative.

Unexpected Magic, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

Slow start so far this month; I’m having to entrench myself for more research reading, and that stuff doesn’t go as easily. The next list may be a good bit shorter.

0 Responses to “Books read, February 2012”

  1. diatryma

    I will someday (meaning, if you poke me a few times I’ll get around to it) do the spreadsheet for my booklog. I have a preliminary one, but I’d like to put together a more elegant one tracking books I read, authors I read, gender, genre, YA or not, and such. By month and cumulatively, with all the pie charts in the world. All of them. I might need cake charts.

    It wouldn’t actually be hard to set up, but the data entry could be a pain.

    • Marie Brennan


      Yes, I imagine the data entry would be a pain. How long have you been keeping your booklog for?

      • diatryma

        October 2009? Ish? i supposed I could also tag them as I found them. But it’s mostly checking boxes in Excel and making sure the numbers add up. I still haven’t figured out a way to handle multiple authors– maybe just add lines, inelegant as it might be.

  2. alecaustin

    The number-crunching was pretty striking, and made me go and check my reading for the last year. With comics included (and as she notes, comics skew pretty massively male, though I did read Finder…), I ended up somewhere around 30% female authors. Which is not great.

    There are additional complicating factors, of course – I skew towards certain specific subgenres (*cough* military SF & fantasy *cough*) and away from others, and there are definite gender biases in terms of who writes what and then who gets published in said genres. Plus there’s gendered cover design to contend with – and for all that I’m sure said book is fine and worthy, that cover is pretty clearly not aimed at my demographic.

    Complicating factors or no, though, 30% is not a ratio I’m comfortable with. I guess I need to get to reading more Karen Traviss and Pat Wrede and post-haste…

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah — obviously subgenre can skew it a lot. (You’d have to work at it to read primarily male authors if the current flavor of urban fantasy was your favored entertainment.) But still, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of these things, and think about them rather than just acting reflexively.

  3. kateelliott

    When I started doing basic research for the Spiritwalker books, I actually began with the McKissack and moved on from there. It’s a solid book that manages to get a lot across within its format (it is targeted at a MG audience, I think).

    • Marie Brennan

      . . . you know, I really should have thought to hit you up for research recs.

      So, um, if you have any others? Please do pass them along.

  4. jimhines

    “…so far this year, every bit of fiction I’ve read has been by a female writer.”

    Technically, weren’t you finishing up mine at the start of this year? 🙂

  5. Anonymous

    Снять красивую шлюху можно у нас

    Снять похотливую бабу можно у нас

Comments are closed.