What’s on your bookshelf?

Finishing reading a book which you have loved every minute of is a bitter-sweet moment. You know that you will never again experience reading it for the first time, no matter how many times you return to re-read in future.

I suppose one of the best ways of countering this is by staying faithful to a list of favourite authors to whose books you immediately approach when visiting a bookshop. You can be (almost) sure that their other work will give you something new to think about, whilst picking up similar pleasurable (if that’s the best word for it) threads as their other writing. Whilst browsing my bookshelf for the next book to begin, it really hit me that I am incredibly guilty of this habit.

Not only does my collection feature groups of books by the same authors, Barnes, Carter, Darrieussecq, Kingsolver, Orwell, Woolf (yes, in alphabetical order) I realised that these groups of books are, for the most part, written by women.

As we fast approach the June announcement of the Orange prize for Fiction is there an especial resonance to considering the sex of the authors we generally read?

The shortlist was announced just last week and a (female) friend noted that the Orange prize winners tend to follow similar themes, in line with their ‘feminine’ authors and (perhaps more dangerously) audience.

So, it has to be asked, does the Orange prize really cater only for women, following a series of themes only of interest to half of the species? What’s more, do reading habits follow gender lines overall? Although it looks like I’ve run out of time to finish the shortlist, perhaps it’s something to bear in mind when we begin this year’s winner?

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