Book Lists for All Humans #5


It’s been a while…not because there haven’t been lists published that weren’t gender balanced, I’m sure there have been, more because while I’m not compiling In the Media, I’m not in my media Twitter feed and so I’m not seeing them. However, I was on the Guardian website this afternoon and they’d published a new ‘Top 10 books’ list. DBC Pierre deserves some sort of award for producing the whitest, most male list I’ve seen so far. Apparently, women/people of colour don’t write books that writers should read. Be told people, only white men know how to write.

Here’s my alternative list, please feel free to suggest your own additions/alternatives in the comments:

To create a setting that feels as though it really exists: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

To see complex characters, whose behaviour raises questions about morality, in action: Waking Lions – Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (translated by Sondra Silverston)

To write successfully from a child’s point-of-view: My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

To manage a complex structure based on a lunar cycle and as good as any box set: The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

To change point-of-view in every chapter, including that of a dead body, and detail some of the atrocities of which humans are capable: Human Acts – Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

To incorporate your own life and letters into fiction/essay/critique: I Love Dick – Chris Kraus

To bring a historical character to life: Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

To write a coming-of-age story in fragmented sentences: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

To write a metafictional account of a massacre: The Gypsy Goddess – Meena Kandasamy

To create an unreliable, first person narrator: The Private Life of Mrs Sharma – Ratika Kapur


Links are to my reviews.

8 thoughts on “Book Lists for All Humans #5

  1. On a very loosely connected tangent just read article about gender and race bias comments from TV commentators at Olympics. Seems that sport is also the preserve of the white heterosexual male too!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. First of all, everyone is entitled to her/his own opinion. That is a list DBC Pierre made for himself. I don’t know him I don’t care if he is white, black, green or blue. I don’t care if he’s gay and into animal sex (okay, knowing that may bother me) but I don’t think about that. And to have this list pointed out as ‘how to write like a white man” is just as sexist as catcalls. It’s like: a white guy does something – cue the female outrage. It’s is list, he’s sharing it, he isn’t saying it’s the non plus ultra list, he’s not saying this is the only list. It’s his list and he is sharing it. I don’t need anyone to point out his skin color. I look at the list, I make my own judgments. My favorite author is a woman. Her skin color happens to be black. When someone is interested, maybe I’ll share mine and she’ll be on it. People may like the list, people may not. I’ll let them decide. So should you. Wasting time and energy on a pretty decent list is a waste of time. There are more worthy causes.


    • If this was a list DBC Pierre had made for his own website then fine but it’s been published in a national newspaper with a significant readership. It perpetuates structural bias. Last year I wrote a piece for Fiction Uncovered about why we should read books by writers of colour. In it, I said this:

      The idea that someone doesn’t see colour is a more complicated one, however. In a society dominated by white narratives, if we don’t see colour we don’t see black and Asian narratives. That makes us complicit in the maintenance of a dominant white narrative. It’s not a statement of equality, it’s a statement of ignorance and it’s a dangerous one.

      You can apply a similar statement to gender.

      As for the ‘more worthy causes’ I prefer to believe that chipping away at every strata of gender disparity is important as it’s the smaller things that help the larger ones to perpetuate.

      It’s interesting that you’ve chosen to spend time telling me what to do on my own website over something you suggest is insignificant. If it’s unworthy, why bother?


  3. Okay. About not seeing color – I get it. We have to go out of our way to support non-white artists. That’s fine. Regarding the ‘more worthy causes’: I stand behind that because you cannot fight all the fights. You just come across (not you in particular) as militant and obnoxious. Counter productive I believe. I’m not telling you what to do on your own website. I was voicing an opinion. Do all comments have to be to your liking? I thought not.


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