Take the Burlesque Press Reading Challenge! by Jeni Stewart

Greetings Burlesque Press readers and friends!

oldbookphotoSo, at the end of December, I took the opportunity to look back through my kindle app.  I had only been reading for just over a year on the ipad, and I noticed that I had a read what seemed to me to be a lot of books. I like to read, – I read on a daily basis.  But I had never once counted the number of books I read in a year before.  The kindle has now made that easy, even for a math and numbers phobe like me – on kindle/ipad alone, I read about 37 books in the last year.  I read several, of course, that weren’t on kindle.  But, just as in my pre-ipad days, those books are scattered over a number of bookshelves, states, libraries, and scary-under-bed realms.

I think, all in all, I probably read over 45 books last year.  Which made me realize that with just a little bit of effort I could have read at least a book a week for all of last year.  One less episode of insert-your-tv-fetish here, or one less trip to the coffee shop/mall/movie theatre, and one more book could have made the difference.

And as I’ve been thinking about this, I recently learned, from the always exciting The Review Review, of a new campaign to encourage people to read more female authors.  An article in The Guardian Joanna Walsh goes so far as to say, “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that, although women read more than men, and books by female authors are published in roughly the same numbers, they are more easily overlooked.”  And in a recent article in Cosmopolitan UK Sophie Hines says, “A yearly study by Vida: Women in Literary Arts has shown that there is a huge discrepancy between the amount of male and female-authored books receiving the critics’ attention. For example, in the Times Literary Supplement, 832 books covered were by women, but 2285 were by men.”  Thus, Joanna Walsh has launched a campaign to combat this, and created the hashtag #readwomen2014.  She says “You don’t have to exclusively read books by women this year (you may be surprised to learn that I won’t be doing so), but you might like to do a Vida count on your own bookshelf; if you find an imbalance, consider whether you might have been a victim of inequality, missing out on good writing because of a pink dust jacket. Just for a change, make sure the next book you read is by a woman.”  I think this is a pretty good idea.

I like the idea of challenging myself to read even more than I normally do, and perhaps even more women than I normally do.  I’ve frankly never kept count before, though a quick scan of last years books seems to indicate the number of books I read by women were high.  And maybe I like the idea of giving myself permission to read more than I normally do.  I read a lot – but sometimes, when supper needs cooking, or clothes need washing, I either feel guilty for indulging in a page-turner-a-thon, or I skip the reading, and do the dirty work.  

But hey – I’m a writer.  I am also a woman.  Why on earth would I want to create a thing, a book, if I don’t enjoy consuming them?  And, in many ways, reading is research.  You learn something from every book, I say, even if it’s just that you don’t care for a particular author and won’t pick them up again.  So I’ve decided that this year I will read at least 50 books.  I’m going to check in periodically on The Variety Show and let you know what I’ve been reading.  I invite you to do the same!  Let’s all reap the benefits of supporting authors, challenging our brains, and just all around enjoying that great escape into the land of imagination together.  Let’s get voracious together, pink dust jackets or no.  I think if we aim for 50 books we’re bound to read a lot of female authors.  So just for kicks, lets use our own hashtag, #read50books2014

So far, this year, I’ve read:

The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Bury This by Andrea Portes (I even managed to write a quick review of this one!)
Closed Doors by Lisa V O’Donnell – my favorite by far
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaleid Hosseini 

So far I’m doing pretty good on reading female authors.  Up next, I’ll be reading a book by a friend of mine, who happens to be male, but hey, he’s a friend so I’mm going to let him slide on that whole y chromosome thing. This is another one that isn’t quite out yet here in the States but is garnering rave reviews around the world.  More on that soon!

In the meantime – what books are on your nightstand?