The Man Booker Prize Longlist 2014: Where Are the Women?

In 1996, Kate Mosse established what is now the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in response to the 1991 Booker Prize all-male shortlist (this was prior to the release of longlisted titles) in a year when 60% of novels published were written by females. Since then, the prize has been subjected to criticism over the decision to make it a women only award, criticism that has only increased in recent years as Hilary Mantel and Eleanor Catton have gone on to win the Booker from shortlists which had gender parity. Unfortunately today’s longlist has demonstrated exactly why the Women’s Fiction Prize is so important.

Let’s start with a positive and offer huge congratulations to Karen Joy Fowler for the wonderful We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (a novel overlooked – in my opinion – by the Bailey’s Prize earlier this year); Siri Hustvedt (one of the first Americans to be considered) for The Blazing World, which is high on my TBR, and to Ali Smith for her forthcoming how to be both. To make the Booker Prize longlist is a huge achievement, to do so in a year when you’re one of three women (on a longlist of thirteen) is nothing short of incredible.

The problem with drawing attention to the gender of the writers on any longlist is that it inevitably leads people to question whether you would prefer to have ‘the best’ books on the list, regardless of gender, or gender parity. There are two problems with this: firstly, as Linda Grant pointed out on Twitter earlier today, is that it suggests that men are writing better novels than women, which simply isn’t true and secondly, the underlying factor is that prizes, and indeed commentary on literature, have been skewed towards men for decades. Whether readers want to acknowledge this bias or not, it exists; writing created by women is still considered lesser to that of their male counterparts.

Let’s take one particular example on this year’s list, ‘Us’ by David Nicholls. I haven’t read the book as it’s one of several on the list not yet published. However, I have read Nicholl’s previous novels, ‘Starter for Ten’ and ‘One Day’. Perhaps Nicholls has changed style for his latest work (please comment and let me know if you’ve read it) but if it is similar to his previous work then my question is this: Where is Jojo Moyes? Why isn’t she included on the list? My guess would be that she wasn’t submitted by her publishers. Why? Because looking at past longlists she wouldn’t stand a chance of making the final thirteen as her work would be considered too commercial.

And then there’s the question of what is submitted. Imprints are allowed one submission unless they’ve had a longlisted title within the last five years, in which case the rules are as follows:

2 submissions – publishers with 1 or 2 longlisting(s)
3 submissions – publishers with 3 or 4 longlistings
4 submissions – publishers with 5 or more longlistings

Any authors previously shortlisted are also eligible to submit their latest book in addition to those submitted by their publisher.

Imagine you work for a publisher and are one of the people responsible for deciding what goes forward to represent the company you work for. You’re making this decision knowing the prestige that this prize holds; knowing that a shortlisting at the least would allow you to publish the books of a number of lesser known writers who deserve a wider audience. You’ve two books in your hand – one by a woman and one by a man – both of equal quality but well, one’s already garnered more reviews in the broadsheets and you’ve studied previous shortlists and the winner’s table. Who do you choose?

What are the solutions? No surprises here that I don’t have any straight forward answers. In an ideal world all judging would be done anonymously. It’s clear from those quizzes that do the rounds on social media every so often that people can’t actually tell the difference between paragraphs written by men and those composed by women. For this to be possible though, the judging panel would have to exist in a cultural void for months and that’s unrealistic. However, during a brief conversation with the publisher Scott Pack on Twitter this afternoon, he suggested two things that could be implemented, although both have their issues.

The first was that the judging panel should have gender parity. Sounds easy but prize panels are often made up of an odd number of people so the chair can have the casting vote on split decisions. In the case of the Booker, there are five judges and a chair. This year the gender split is 4/2 male/female. Making this an even split on its own is not going to solve the underlying issue but it would be one step towards addressing it.

The second was that submissions should also be equally divided between genders. Now, as you can see from the guidelines above, that isn’t possible in the case of many imprints who are allowed an odd number of submissions and as the judges also have a huge amount of books to read in a relatively short time period (160 in six months this year) doubling the subscriptions from those imprints who haven’t had a longlisted book in the past five years sounds like a ridiculous thing to do. However, as long as the genders are neither considered nor represented equally, perhaps allowing all imprints to submit two books as long as one is by a female writer and the other by a male is a way to try and address the imbalance. It would no doubt mean that imprints with a large number of previously longlisted titles would have to be restricted to submitting fewer titles but surely it’s good for the industry to have greater breadth and for the small presses to compete on a slightly more balanced field? You only need to look at the recent success of Galley Beggars and Salt to see that small independent publishers are putting out interesting, high quality work.

It’s a shame that I’ve felt compelled to write this post in 2014 in a year when #readwomen2014 has raised the profile of female writers; when book shops are working to ensure that there’s gender parity on their display tables; when so many good books by female writers are being published, but it shows us that the fight is far from won.

0 thoughts on “The Man Booker Prize Longlist 2014: Where Are the Women?

  1. Til you mentions it not notice lack of women a safe list I feel only two jump out at me the two Richards and both were on fringe of my radar to read although the wake seems an unusual book as well

    • And that’s because we’re so used to seeing that imbalance, Stu. I agree that it’s safe. There’s a serious lack of voices from other parts of the Commonwealth too and it’s all so very white.

      The two Richards were also in my sight – I have the Powers already – he is a fantastic writer. The Wake does seem the most interesting choice.

  2. I haven’t really followed the Man Booker Prize before but that was the first thing that immediately struck me as I saw the long list today – only three female authors, really?? A truly insightful post, even if it is a shame to have to write, about the importance and relevance of female-only prizes, such as the Baileys Prize and how there is still so far to go in the battle for gender parity.

  3. Interesting debate……’s difficult as so many titles as yet unpublished and therefore unread by most of us. There were at least some women judges ……all the judges were white though……surely you could have a more balanced panel not just in terms of gender but race too

    • Thank you. Yes, it would. Sarah Churchwell did comment on Twitter earlier today that submissions are confidential so she couldn’t comment but that she hope the prize will release the statistics later.

  4. Such a thoughtful, interesting, and insightful post. When I saw the longlist earlier today I too was shocked that only three of the authors were women. It would be interesting to see how many female authors’ novels were submitted in the first place.

    • Thanks, Gemma. Yes, I’m hoping they release the submission figures by gender, country and ethnicity at the end of the process. It would make interesting reading, I’m sure.

  5. I can see why people get frustrated when they see a dearth of gender representation but there are no easy answers as you say. If you go for a quota then you risk having books on the list purely because of the gender of the author rather than the merits of the novel. If I were a women writer I would prefer to be on a list because someone felt it deserved to be there purely because of the skill I exhibit rather than because I am female.

    • I understand that and I hope my suggestion was a little more sophisticated than a quota. Surely you can see though that there is an inherent bias towards men that needs to be addressed? I would want to be listed on merit but I’m also aware that the odds would be stacked against me.

    • Great post. You raise many good points. I was unaware that “Any authors previously shortlisted are also eligible to submit their latest book in addition to those submitted by their publisher.” That explains why the same authors are on the longlist over and over again.

      Still, I wholeheartedly agree with BookerTalk on this one. I would not want to receive an award, a job, or anything else requiring a quota for women simply because I am female.

      As a Canadian, I was much more bummed out that there are no Canadian authors on the list this year, and very little Commonwealth writers for that matter.

      I look forward to getting my hands on these titles. Thank you for your insightful post and congrats on being featured on Freshly Pressed. Well deserved.

      • Hi Carole, I don’t disagree with the point about wanting to be awarded on merit at all, unfortunately I don’t believe we live in a world where that’s a likely for women as it is for men.

        I’m disappointed at the lack of titles from the Commonwealth too, it would’ve been nice to discover some new writers.

        Thank you for commenting and for your kind words.

  6. A very interesting insightful post. I saw the list earlier today not long after it was released and was frankly uninspired. But I then I don’t read much new stuff and I read a lot of women. I think the whole gender bias argument is hugely complex, a quota system (which I know you aren’t suggesting) would be awful and patronising but I can’t imagine what the answer is. I find it hard to credit that writers are judged primarily on their gender before a word has been read. If that really is the case ( speaking as someone who knows nothing about the facts of this) it would be horrifying. If the prize is to remain credible in the face of the criticism of today’s announcement, maybe there needs to be greater transparency of what was submitted. I am sure the judges would claim that each book is judged on merit and gender doesn’t enter into the debate, I would hope that is the case, if it isn’t then the world hasn’t moved on very far at all.

    • Hi, Ali, Thank you and thanks for your thoughtful response. I don’t think (at least I really hope) prize judges pick up a book by a woman and think it won’t be as good as anything written by a man. However, I know that the gender bias is inherent in our thinking about literature as I was guilty of it myself without being aware of it, I simply followed the books that were ‘good’: those on prize lists; those on academic lists; those reviewed in the broadsheets. Again, we don’t know what’s been submitted but if there are fewer books by women then that’s also part of the problem – it’s not that women aren’t writing them.

  7. There are no easy answers, but I do wish that there was a requirement that books had to be available to the public by the date of publication of the longlist. At least then we would be able to discuss the relative merits of the books listed or not as well as all of the other issues.

  8. There was a passage in Salman Rushdie’s memoir that Susan Sontag said that literature was not an equal opportunity employer. I remember that stood out for me.

  9. A very interesting and thought-provoking post, Naomi. I don’t feel I can add much to this debate other than to concur with the hope that the judges release the submission stats – this seems an important step.

  10. Well done addressing this issue in more depth. It is a more difficult one than most people suspect because of compounding factors. With the recent success of Hilary Mantel & Eleanor Catton I would hope that most publishers would see it as advantageous to put forth more titles by women, but sadly this probably isn’t the case. Your proposed suggestions are interesting. Hopefully the Booker will address the issue and try to think more dynamically about how the prize can be made more equal.

    How fitting that Hustvedt’s tremendous novel The Blazing World is a title on the long list since the central issue that the main character in this book is addressing is the inherent sexism in the art world. She orchestrates elaborate stunts – launching art shows and pretends they were created by men to prove that male artists get more critical attention and their art is financially and aesthetically valued more. The novel addresses how complex this issue is in the arts. But how brilliant would it be if a novel with a man’s name won the Booker and then a female author stepped forward and revealed she’d written it?!

    • Thank you, Eric and thanks for your thoughtful response. Yes, unfortunately some people think that because two women have gone on to be very successful that the issue’s been addressed. Hopefully the possibility of an all-male shortlist for the first time in 23 years will help people see that it really isn’t the case. I also had the inevitable tweet last night pointing out that last year the gender split on the shortlist was actually 4/2 female/male. I did know that but a cursory glance at all the shortlists would tell you it’s the first time in the history of the prize that that happened. In which case, well, I could argue we’ve never had gender parity we’re so far behind.

      I’m so looking forward to reading Hustvedt’s novel – I’m going to bump it up the pile to read next week.

      Your suggestion’s a good one – in one sense it would be wonderful and highlight the issues with the prize, in another it makes me despair that it’s something we’re considering.

  11. While I completely agree with you about women authors not receiving the praise, attention or prizes they deserve, I wanted to point out that even some males feel slighted. Loved Edward St. Aubyn’s Lost For Words, his delicious parody of the Booker as a legitimate prize for any gender.

    • Hi, yes there will always be books that we feel have been ignored regardless. I’d love to know what the judges thought of the St. Aubyn. I haven’t read Lost for Words but I have read some of the Melrose books and he’s very talented.

  12. This is the first year I have really been following the Man Booker Prize, but the first thing I saw when looking at the list was also that there were not many female authors. However, I think it would be very difficult to actually implement any rules to make the gender ratio equal. And of course there are always those people who will be against it no matter what. In any case, this was a great post!

  13. I’m really not so sure. I mean, how far does the world have to go today in terms of how we judge contests? I see comments above suggest ‘judges with more ethnic diversity’ as well as that of gender suggested by the article.
    I find it downright insulting to my intelligence that some comments seem to imply as a white male I, in no possible way, could ever choose a book wrote by a woman or a black person, because ya know, I’m not either of those. Why would having more women mean more women would win? Are women judges only capable of choosing women? Would they have a greater tendency to choose women? I would hardly think so. I feel anyone so honoured as to be on such a prestigious panel would surely be able to raise their mentality beyond “OMG kan’t vote 4 womenz theyz r stupid”.
    I think the best books by and large probably win, and exceptions are always going to occur in a world of opinion.
    In fact, if people at all wanted to look into biased judging, maybe they should examine the frightening amount of articles appearing on Freshly Pressed that focus solely on women’s rights issues. Honestly since the #YesAllWomen wave I’m finding it hard to read articles on anything else, even granting people do want to read current affairs.
    Well, go ahead. I suppose somebody wants to call me sexist now.

    • Hi Kyle, Thanks for commenting. You raise an important issue about intelligence there, so let’s do this as scientifically as possible and look at the statistics.

      The Booker Prize has been awarded every year for the past 45 years. Now, I didn’t mention winners, I was talking about shortlists and longlists but the information is available for both the winners, the shortlists and the judging panels for all of those 45 years. Over that time, 46 people have won the prize as one year joint winners were awarded – a man and a woman, as it happens. 17 of those 46 winners were female, that’s 37% (including the joint win). 261 books have been shortlisted, 99 of those were by women, that’s 38%. The number of judges that have judged the prize is 216, 81 of those were female, that’s 37.5%. Considering that women make up 51% of the population then there’s something a bit off about those figures to me.

      What if you’re a person of colour? Well, 7 people of colour have won the prize over 46 years, that’s 15%; 26 have been shortlisted, that’s 10%, and 2 have appeared on the judging panel, that’s 1% (I had to round that up to get a whole number). 2 females of colour have won the prize, that’s 4%, and unless you’re Anita Desai, you’ve probably not made the shortlist.

      And what about the judging panel? In the years that women have won 38/82 judges or 46% have been female, which suggests to me that yes, women are more likely to win if the panel has gender parity. As for people of colour, it’s only ever been awarded to a person of colour once when there’s been a person of colour on the jury. However, considering the low number of people of colour who have actually won the prize, I’m not sure we should be congratulating anybody just yet.

      As for the number of articles appearing on Freshly Pressed about women’s rights, as far as I understand it, my article was chosen because of the volume of hits it’s received and the amount it’s been shared on Twitter and I assume that’s the case for all the pieces chosen. To me, that suggests that people want to write about women’s rights issues and others want to read about them. Possibly, this is because women feel, for the first time, that they have a voice on social media and because, unfortunately, these issues still exist. If you feel so strongly about them can I suggest you do something by fighting against the bias against women rather than feeling sorry for yourself?

      • Hey, thanks for replying. Thanks for doing all the figures also. Considering if we extrapolate back forty five years, which realistically is a very short time, I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from a figure that draws up a fairly respectable circa 38% across the three areas you mentioned. If it was something like 7%, then ya, I’d be worried. But just based on the law of averages as to when good books are going to crop up, I’d consider 38% not at all off and wouldn’t be surprised if that figure averages out more to your desired 51% over time (although I can’t see why in a world of opinion that should ever happen, as the maths won’t align.) One could see of course, that if a woman had wrote a very brilliant book one year and been shortlisted, they may have won the following year, where a poorer book written by a male stood out. Again, it’s all opinion, and considering a frightening amount of the world’s illiterate are women (which seems like a real issue), I can’t really work with a 51% population (which to be honest is just half even if that 1% is indeed a large number of people).
        As for the judging panel, I’m not sure which makes me worry more. On one hand, we could say males on the panel are clearly not choosing females, or equally we could say females are purposefully choosing their own gender. Both of course are frightening. One might suggest people enjoy books by their own gender more, and having more women on the panel or men on the panel would tilt the scales without at all summing up each books literary merits fairly. If this is the case, which in my own experience it is not (having just enjoyed Stella Gemmell’s lovely fantasy debut novel), then perhaps they should just scrap the prize, because clearly in such a situation the best book is not being chosen. Then that raises the point of “what is the best book?”. Can six or seven people fairly judge one book over all others without being influence by their underlying prejudice etc. For instance, if you yourself were on the panel, you would be subconsciously aware of the points raised in your article, and so to a minute degree your choice may be skewed. That’s not to say you could not judge each book on its merit, which based on your lovely piece (despite my grumblings) shows a very fine love of literature, but you see how prejudices arise. Of course that feeds into the whole point of the article that men are biased on the panel. Sadly, seeing your figure about women more likely to win when women have gender parity on the panel, one could suggest that in some way the opposite is also true. Call it human nature, call it just coincidence, call it downright injustice, but it’s evident. Does that mean we should in any case have gender parity on the panel so more women would win (or vice versa), just to satisfy the statistics? I’m not so sure. That’s dangerous territory. I would hope that somewhere, they’ll find a panel (if they have already not), who can choose the best novel, and not even care whose name is on the cover.
        P.S. as for my comment on freshly pressed figures, I hope I didn’t imply your own article was undeserving (even though, really Kyle, it really looks like I did), nor am I suggesting women’s rights is not an important or topical issue. I’m just saying I’m noticing a strong trend. Ya, this part just sounds stupid, I’d best get out of here haha.

      • And what worries me the most is that a woman’s writing is still considered “lovely” as in “Stella Gemmell’s lovely fantasy debut novel”. I am sure it is lovely, but I am also sure the adjetive wouldn’t be used for a man’s writing. Would anyone call Mitchell’s “The Bone Clocks” lovely? I highly doubt it.

      • This is actually a reply to Elana below, whose reply button I unfortunately can’t seem to find. Thumbs up for finding a great example of sexism. I mean, as everyone knows, lovely is actually a derogatory term, and not an adjective of high praise. Stop picking fights where they’re aren’t any, especially when I’ve gone so far as to commend that novel above at least a dozen or so more I’ve read all summer

      • kyle8414 says “But just based on the law of averages as to when good books are going to crop up, I’d consider 38% not at all off and wouldn’t be surprised if that figure averages out more to your desired 51% over time”

        Actually, that’s pretty easy to test using the chi-square statistical test. If you look just at the proportion of female winners, there’s about a 6% chance that a process that was truly random with respect to gender would produce an outcome that skewed or more.

        However, if you look at the entire shortlist, the probability of a random process producing a result as skewed as only 99 women out of 261 total is only 0.01%. That’s enough to convince me that some sort of selective process favoring the selection of men rather than women is the much more likely explanation.

    • Whenever someone says they are tired of how many articles about women’s rights issues come out I think how tired I am of seeing women with their breasts exposed on page 3.
      But well done reading Naomi’s article and thinking about it.

      • Great!
        The problem is that sexism is often a lot more subtle and institutionalized than someone in a room thinking/saying “OMG kan’t vote 4 womenz theyz r stupid”
        Maybe crazy people think/say overt things like that. But sexism incrementally exists in the way choices are made step-by-step throughout a production chain that leads to a book being lauded as Booker winner 2014. In the publishing world this trail follows all the way from a hopeful writer submitting a book to a publisher to a reader surveying which manuscripts in a slush pile have subject matter that will hook public attention to publishers deciding which books to publish to marketers deciding what colour/typescript/genre definition to use to sell a book to booksellers deciding which books to feature to editors/publicists deciding which novels to submit to prizes to juding committees deciding which books to long list. When a book travels along this trail the gender of the author is unfortunately factored in meaning the book is marginalized as a certain kind of book or books by women are gradually selected out from competitions and don’t get equal opportunities to be a contender for the win. Only in looking at statistics, as Naomi has so assiduously provided, do we see there are clear imbalances.
        Yes, the actual winner represents the opinions of only a select few people. But it is one of the most visible and attention-grabbing book prizes in the country. I don’t know what the answer is to address the clear imbalance, but it’s important we think about the complexity of the issue rather than dismissively thinking of prize winners “Well, that’s just the opinion of a few people.” There are a lot more factors that go into it.

      • Indeed of course a lot more factors go into it then either the OP, myself or you could ever highlight. I just feel it says a lot about the human race when we could assume that open-minded people sitting on a prestigious panel such as that could be so petty as to turn a blind eye to an amazing book simply because of the gender of the author. I just can’t believe in that kind of evil. People may say it’s engineered into us, and we may not notice we do it, but the point stands that they’re so many amazing people out there compared to the average sexist person. Going back to our odds I just think it’s more likely these were the books someone’s individual opinion selected, though the others were all brilliant too. Now, as for sexism pre-contest, that’s a whole other relevant point entirely. The OP has gone into superb detail on how submissions work, educating us all on the matter, but as she pointed out publishing is now by and large a field where women are beginning to edge out men over who is getting their books published. In fact, in nearly every genre outside of perhaps crime or fantasy, I would say anytime I walk into a book shop I see by and large a female cast.The one point i could see some institutionalized behaviour cropping in is at the submission process, where based on the above figures some of the less intelligent publishers would submit male books, as they see male winners. This is a shame and highly stupid of the publishers, as I’m sure if a book wrote by a woman was better and they elected it, they would stand a far better chance at the selection process.
        P.S. major bonus points for “assiduously”, gotta love that one! 🙂

  14. Important points to consider. We are in a time when bestseller charts are full of books by women. So the popular vote is won. Maybe the critical vote will follow?

  15. Concerning the judging process, I’d suggest that the submitted titles should be read blind -author names should be omitted – and novels judged/evaluated without any awareness of the author’s identity. Only then can the novel be judged fairly. When the name is known, there are always going to be expectations and assumptions.
    I’m not sure if they read novels blind, on the website it makes no reference. Man discusses how the judges are chosen, but doesn’t provide other details.

    • Hi Ana, thanks for commenting. Yes, I agree although I still think there would be difficulties with some as it’s hard to avoid the publicity for big name authors. As far as I’m aware the novels aren’t read blind at the moment.

      • Maybe they can use a number code for each novel and then after they finish reading, evaluating, the novel is revealed.

  16. Thanks for the article and the statistics you’ve provided in the comments: they are really thought-provoking. The feeling I got after reading the longlist is that this year the prize is indeed “more global, less diverse” to use Justine Jordan’s words on The Guardian website.

    I hope I will not come across as too much of a nitpicker, but the Booker was awarded twice to joint winners, not just once as reported above. In 1974 the winners were Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton (female/male) and in 1992 they were Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth (male/male).

    It seems that following the huge success of “The English Patient” most people have completely forgotten the other co-winner, which is a pity since “Sacred Hunger” is a very good novel and deserves to be read more widely.

    • Hi Ametista, Thanks for joining the discussion. Not nitpicking at all, I should have added that to the figures and then they’d have looked even worse – well, the shortlist and winners percentages would be two percent smaller.

  17. Reblogged this on Books and Reviews and commented:
    This Sunday I was going to write a post about the Man Booker Prize as well, but I think Naomi did an amazing job and I prefer to reblog hers. Her post appears on the WordPress Freshly Pressed and has encouraged some healthy discussion on women’s right on the comments section.

    Meanwhile, I would like to stress how important and crucial it is that we – as a society – support and empower women writers. I love reading women authors and I talk to mostly female publicists and agents on Twitter. So, I wonder, why can’t women be closer to 50% in prizes like this one. I also wonder if people know about the #ReadWomen2014 project. But, most importantly, I wonder if people do not stop to think that there women writers out there whose writing is still considered “lovely” and whose works are overlooked and underrated for only one reason: they were written by a woman.

    Congrats and thank you, Naomi:

    • It really takes from an otherwise perfectly fine comment when you take a cheap shot at my reply. You offer no evidence as to why ‘lovely’, an adjective you clearly have a problem with, is so offensive against female writers. If someone called my writing lovely, I’d be downright thrilled. Not everyone has an agenda against your gender, so please don’t imply such is the case especially when the original reply merited a female author specifically for her work. Honestly, it feels like you went to great lengths here to expose some kind of misogynistic view that is nowhere evident in my comment.

      • I’m sorry, but as a literary critic, reviewer, blogger and English and American literature graduate I have never ever heard “lovely” applied to a man’s writing. But more and more frequently, it is used for women’s writing. And I have a problem with the adjective because its use in the English language can be specially traced as gender-biased. To give you a very simple example and without getting into English language history, in the Oxford dictionary one of the entries for lovely is: “An attractive woman or girl.” Of course, you’ll say this is just one of the entries, but it is a tiny example of the gender-biased evolution of one little word. Another look at linguistics would show you that men and women have different ways to express themselves in everyday life, and, as a consequence, use very different words and identify themselves with very different words.

        I totally agree that many people do not have an agenda against women, it’s just the way we are raised. There are a lot more features to take into account, like social class, race, sexual orientation, looks, “having an accent”, religion, etc. If you are interested, there is a new field of studies called “queer theory” that analyzes everything that is on the margins. However, it has strong post-structuralist, postcolonial, postmodern and performativity influences, so it’s not light reading.

      • Hmm, I’m still not convinced. On several occasions, I have sent samples of my own private writing to close friends (both male and female) and many times they have returned and said it was lovely. I never stopped to think what associations that word has; I just know it was praise and that felt great. I’m not sure of your nationality, but perhaps here in Ireland the word ‘lovely’ is used far more regularly so that any kind of connotations or agendas behind it would be non-existent. Of course I would wholeheartedly agree that men and women are more and more expressing themselves in different ways, and many of this can be pin-pointed to language itself. A very obvious example is that no man would call a woman ‘handsome’ and similarly it’s not often you hear a man called ‘beautiful’ when so many other words exist. That however, hardly qualifies as a reason that both those words are not perfectly complimentary in the opposite context. More and more we are pidgeon-holing words into meaning what we feel they should mean or from our experience, rather than what they in general actually mean. That is tragic and nothing else. As a result, I will not be obligated by society to use words that are politically correct/agreeable when the word I use is perfectly fine. Stella Gemmell’s The City was entertaining. It was moving. It was humorous. It was gripping. It was good writing. But indeed, it was lovely. And if ever one day Stella writes on my blog and says “wow what a lovely article”, I would be downright happy.

      • Well, you can do whatever pleases you with words – obviously! – but the professors and scholars who study, teach and do research on the English language have their own conclusions. Maybe these discoveries are not welcomed outside academia, but I’m afraid we do not care that much, the same way scientists know that common people cannot grasp even 1% of what they’re doing. We cannot push content into people’s head, sadly, but we are the ultimate “authorities” the same way a doctor is the ultimate authority to discover and tell you whether you have cancer or nor. Lucky us, we humanities people deal with -apparently – less life-threatening issues!

        I’m happy your work is considered “lovely” by loved ones. As a professor, that is not a valid term to describe any kind of writing because it lacks critical content and is historically associated with what I just said above. Sure, it works for everyday contexts and friendly exchanges, but it is not valid when it comes to literary criticism in a professional or even academic field. Here you have encountered a bunch of (Naomi and myself included) teachers, professors, professional writers, PhD candidates in many and diverse literary fields which include interdisciplinary gender anylisis, reviewers and/or in some way related to professional or academic writing. Maybe that is why “lovely” does not work for us.

      • You are very free to your conclusions, of course. That being said the comment is mine, and all associated opinions behind it are my own. As a pharmacy student at university, I can say without any shadow of a doubt that the conclusions made in diagnosing cancer and discovering the supposed meaning of words are very, very different. And I am in no way referring to the severity of the issue, which as you have pointed out, is obvious. Diagnosing cancer isn’t as flexible and fluid as language. We have mutations. We have cell cycles. We have drug therapies. We have patient outcomes, etc. There is no room for misinterpretation. Misinterpretation means somebody dies. You quote that here I have encountered “insert relevant paragraph” without taking any consideration for the fact that I also, in my own way, have been encountered. As a result, my own qualifications in the field of language have to be taken into account, and so as a result any hidden agenda you find in my use of lovely is null and void. In the same way I must accept people using homeopathic remedies do find some benefit despite the evidence, you must also accept that the use of “lovely” here is perfectly acceptable despite what your evidence says. And why is that? It is because of your very own point. In the same way homeopathy is commonly used for “everyday exchanges”, “lovely” can be perfectly used for any form of literary criticism made by the common critic. I am not a humanities student. I do not have a doctorate in the history of the English language. I am not a paid writer. I am the everyday person. Every single day, the everyday person around the world calls books lovely, or good, or enjoyable, or fun, or interesting, or even spooky. From your positions atop the throne of language, you must scoff at these simpletons. I mean all those words must have some connotations/agenda/conspiracy theory? Thus anybody who uses them innocently should be judged based on the opinions of the academic field.
        In the same way people at the counter stumble through their interpretations of drug doses or contra-indications, you too must laugh at my feeble attempts to bring my opinion into the world through the medium of English. The only difference is I really don’t care what simple explanation people give to how the drugs I sell them work, as long as they’re safe and achieving positive outcomes. Maybe the language hierarchy should also give thought to how we all cannot compete at such a high level, and relish in the fact that out there people are striving to climb a ladder not unlike your own. On my blog you can read a review of Stell Gemmell’s The City from about a month ago that goes far beyond “lovely”. So, in summing up, here you have encountered a pharmacy student whose literary experience extends to schoolwork and his sorties into fantasy writing/reading. I will never be a doctor of English, but one day you might pass me lecturing a pharmacology class. Or maybe you’ll call into my pharmacy. Either way, I’ll be excelling in an area outside the English language but still curling up to read the next big fantasy hit. Maybe that’s why lovely works for me

    • Well, you said it. You’re the equivalent of a homoephatic patient but language-related . As you said, let’s tolerate those people and leave them alone to realize their mistake.

      Or let them live happily enjoying what they DO know about their fields. I have no doubt about your knowledge of chemistry, why do you keep doubting mine of the English language? We both have degrees on each field, so what does empower you to do so? What would you think of people who would go to your future business and doubt whether a medication for something as simple as a cold works or not?

      • Yes but the point I’m making in my analogy is while the comparison exists language is far too fluid for you to pin point a meaning/connotation to a word and call it a fact. That does not doubt your degree or your prowess in your field but it is a feature of the language itself. You must consider my experience in the field is not as wide as your own, while also remembering English is not a science (and perish the thought it could be!) and so we should not treat it as such. In fact, that really is the beauty of it; it has a wonderful ability to be interpreted that leaves us free to wield it as we may. For instance, as an aside, here in Ireland we commonly use the term “savage” to dictate we find something amazing/wonderful/positive. Of course you may say this is slang, and we would never call Stella Gemmell’s book ‘savage’, but the point remains that everyday millions of people make use of the term in their exchanges, whereas far fewer people use fine literary terms enjoyed by the academics. Thus we reach the situation where you would argue that here such terms must be used, as this is a review site/site of academic material. Again we become the homeopathic patient. I have made my review on my own terms, and it should be judged as thus. There is no marking scheme or gradation for my adjectives/opinions or thoughts. This is wordpress; here we are all about friendly exchanges.

        • True. Everything is fluid, but we need some rules to live in the real world, so that I can correct exams at school and provide feedback. Also, science changes a lot, so I see it as fluid as well. All my relatives are doctors and they keep on studying and studying, because they need to keep themselves updated.

          If you want to check on the language as a science, google Noam Chomsky and generative linguistics for fun. I think you’ll like it (professionally, it was my nightmare).

          • Hmm I think fluidity and adaptability are two different things, but lets not argue the meaning of more words here haha. I suppose we are coming from two very different perspectives here, so a common ground really is not going to exist. Luckily that’s completely fine. Thanks for the link, I may look into it

  18. Hi Naomi – great post which raises some very important and yes, hard issues to solve. Lots of things about the Booker perplex me. I’ve always been genuinely puzzled that people as busy as the judges (or anyone, for that matter) would have the time to read 150 odd novels in full, and attentively, in the allocated time. I wonder if they do, or whether the titles which actually come under serious consideration consist of a smaller selection that all the judges managed to get through and thought worthy. But whether or not that is the case, given the much discussed influence of gender of reader and writer on individuals’ choice and taste in reading material, parity between male and female judges on the panel seems a logical and relatively uncontroversial place to start.

    • Thanks, Isabel. Yes, it strikes me as strange too. Last year I read 120 books over the year while I worked full time – and as a teacher I do get the odd week where I can get through the best part of a book a day so to read 150+ in 6 months with a professional career seems extraordinary.

  19. Bias runs deep in us all, even if we aren’t aware of it. There was an interesting piece in a newsmagazine about blind auditions for symphony musicians. They put the candidates behind a screen so they couldn’t be seen, only heard. Selection committees were often shocked when they discovered they’d chosen a woman, and the number of women chosen went up dramatically.

  20. Oh come on. Not this old chestnut again. Thank goodness this doesn’t occur with the Samuel Johnston Prize for Non-Fiction. Leave it out. Men and women don’t write books: ‘people’ do! And we have moved on from Equal Ops – it’s now a very serious matter of Equality and Diversity (E&D), which ought not to be applied to the arts and writing, surely. There are many more female writers than male, true fact; and many are in the Children, Teenage, ChicLit, SexTales, S&M and ArgaSaga fiction league, also true fact – look at the evidence of all of the publishing houses, e-publishers and sales figures; they don’t lie. JK Rowling and Jacqueline Wilson being just 2 cases in point; oh, and someone name EL James! Hum. Having ruled out these, most of the writing heavy-hitters, and I mean proper heavy-hitters, have been male – true fact. I have done the maths from the last 2000 years – Francis Beacon, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Robert Graves, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemmingway etc etc etc. And of the last 30 years also many more male heavy-hitters, also true fact. This does not stop great classics being written by females, Virginia Woolf, Iris Murdoch – in fact the Man Booker winners from the last 2 years are 2 absolute favourites of mine and both full of grit and gravitas – and please remember I don’t care if great books are written by male or female – so females can do for themselves (cue Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin!) without the need to resorting to the safety-netted opened-ceiling of the Orange/Lemon/Bessie/Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. But please, oh please don’t ask E&D awarding bodies like Man Booker to water down their current long-term greatness just to feign Equal Ops and positively discriminate, as this will inevitably water down the quality. This is not what Martyn Goff et al invented and set up the prize for – and before anyone thinks of biting off the bound hand that started it all – if it wasn’t for Martyn (a male, just in case this name style confuses, but who cares) many of the current book prizes, and therefore significant interest, just wouldn’t be there. He started it, by the way, for interest and fun, and to encourage fun-betting on favourites to win. Now, if you want more females to be considered great, then they need to step up to the plate and – well earn greatness as Woolf, Murdoch, Mantel and Catton et al have.

    • Hi Pete, I’ve authorised your comment – how does it feel that I’ve allowed you a voice when I could’ve just ignored your opinion? Not that, you know, that happened to women for centuries or anything.

      Anyway, on to your so eloquently argued, statistically-based points. These are the things that you say are ‘true fact’: ‘there are more female authors than male’; ‘many are in the Children, Teenage, ChicLit, SexTales, S&M and ArgaSaga fiction league’; ‘most of the writing heavy-hitters, and I mean proper heavy-hitters, have been male’. For your first and second points, you offer evidence from the publishing houses and sales figures. Could you tell me where to find those please? Sales figures for, let’s say, the last 30 years (that was your – arbitrary? – choice) and well, anything at all from the publishing houses as I’ve never seen any statistics published by them but I don’t work in the industry and perhaps you do and can give me an insight. For your third point there, you offer me the writers in the literary canon. Interesting. Let’s consider who created the canon – universities. Oh yes, those same universities who didn’t allow women to enter their hallowed halls until 1876. Oxford University didn’t allow women to graduate until 1920 and Cambridge until 1970, there’s a level playing field for all these female ‘heavy-hitters’ to allow their work to stand alongside their male counterparts. It’s not as though prior to that women who’ve since been added to the literary canon felt that they needed to publish their work under male pseudonyms – Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell – or stay at home caring for their parents writing 800 poems left unpublished on their death (Emily Dickinson).

      The more recent female writers you cite are interesting, two in particular: JK Rowling, a woman who was told to publish under her initials rather than her first name because young boys apparently wouldn’t want to read books written by a woman and Hilary Mantel who wrote nine excellent novels before being acknowledged by the Booker – Ian McEwan and Martin Amis weren’t ignored like that, although I’m sure you’ll tell me that’s because their books are better than Mantel’s having read them all yourself, of course.

      What I suggest you do is read some, preferably all, of the women I’ve listed below and then come back and tell me they weren’t cruelly ignored by the establishment. Enjoy your reading!

      Elizabeth Bowen
      Edna O’Brien
      Djuna Barnes
      Elizabeth Taylor
      Muriel Spark
      Rosamund Lehmann
      Elaine Dundy

      • Thank you to Juliet Pickering & Naomi Frisby for: (@julietpickering 2000yrs! Wow. Who knew the Booker had been around that long?!) ‏(@Frizbot All his points are backed up with statistical evidence. Sorry, I mean the words ‘true fact’ written with authority.) (‏@julietpickering He sounds like a plonker. TRUE FACT.)
        Is this really the level to which your campaign for women writers has fallen? Plus, by not even considering other views, and thank you for allowing me a voice (although I doubt you could have really ignored me) you are in danger of making yourselves the prisoners of your own opinion. Ironically, I have just returned home by train to this, as have been working in London all day at the British Library, where one could easily find the metadata for the whole British Library information collection, including publishing data, plus the Cataloguing Publication Programme. Also, with membership it can be requested from the British National Bibliography at Wetherby. As a member of the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford; the Cambridge University Library; the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; and the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, I have access to a great deal of data and information. Unfortunately for me, I have yet to visit Dublin, and therefore the Trinity College Library, but this is an ambition. All of these great institutions come under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act of 2003 and are there as a national treasure and for future reference.

        You may not know it, but all company accounts, including sales, are also publically available. And as about 70% of English language literature is published through five main publishing houses, it is now very easy to gain the information from single sources. Moreover, the 10 or 13 digit ISBN registered code is very helpful with this. Plus, with access to the full Gales Literature Resource Centre and all 260 volumes of the Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, not much gets away from me; not even Mills and Boons! There are other great Universities in Britain which I have the great privilege to frequent, including the University of Reading, which has a substantial reference, including company records, of Mills and Boons publications called The Harlequin Mills & Boon Archive, which consists of the editorial correspondence of both John Boon and Alan Boon, publication records, script registers, and publicity material.
        I mention all of this as in my research, covering the last 2 centuries, one needs to know a bit more than title, author and publisher to gain publication figures and sales figures, including original sales for Dickens and Doyle etc. Interesting stuff, indeed.

        Now, to answer some of your other questions: I picked 30 years, not just because it seemed to be (+/- 5 years) the average ages of you and other bloggers, I, however, go back decades I’m afraid, but also because it has been, to my knowledge, in the last 30 years that female authors have really caught up en masse, leading me to my argument that now people write books and each book should be read and judged on its own merit. Your list of: Elizabeth Bowen; Edna O’Brien; Djuna Barnes; Elizabeth Taylor; Muriel Spark; Rosamund Lehmann; Elaine Dundy; Winifred Holtby; E.H. Young; Nina Bawden; Marghanita Laski; Willa Cather; Susan Glaspell, are all great authors whose works I know well and all of whom I would describe as ‘heavy-hitters’ (sorry fellow blogs, a mean bit of baseball slang from across the pond on my part – a very important or influential person). Anyway, re the list: what is your point here please?
        Yes, I know some women had to hide identities – Middlemarch was and still is for me one of the greatest pieces of fiction. I remember studying it at Harvard where I read English, and many of my Alumni did not believe George Eliot was a woman whose real name was Marian Evans, formally Mary Anne Evans. But do remember that Middlemarch was her 7th book, and whether male or female, she had to work hard to develop her craft into great writing. This part is important; even as a ‘male’ she was not really accepted until she wrote a great work. And that my dear is my point, people write and are either great writers right from the off – raw talent etc, or have to work hard to learn and develop it – some taking decades like Hillary Mantel, and some never making it, no matter how hard editors work and mentor them.
        Chesley Sullenberger decided to and actually landed ‘safely’ on the Hudson River, not because he was a man but because he had many decades, including military, of flying, taking-off and landing experience (plus a great co-pilot who followed his leadership and procedures). That sheer level of experience has yet to be gained by a female (dare I say it – but: fact; research it). Inter alia, it is a shame that Sarah West has today been highlighted by the press [because she is a woman no doubt], the first female to command an RN ship, with many a trap, as allegedly having an inappropriate affair and therefore losing her command, whereas she could [yet] be a sea equivalent of Chesley Sullenberger. I wonder if the passengers and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 cared if Capt Sullenberger was male or female. Why not? Because the [crash] landing was successful; ie is the book a great; great books of the past have been written by men; publishers (or any company and shareholders) don’t get rich by publishing unfavourable works; cycle unbroken; etc. But, therefore, mainly only men were getting the support and attention from editors, and in the process getting better and better, leaving women without raw talent behind.
        Now, if women were not allowed education, University, authorship etc, where did they get the challenging arena in which to develop? Therefore, using your own argument, greatness was [unfairly] alluded to many of them… Remember, it has been, in my research, in the last 30 years that they have caught up, leading me to argue people now write books and each book should be read and judged on its own merit. The Sarah Churchwell and Erica Wagner I know are no slouches at incisive analysis of great literature, nor are the other 4 judges for that matter, with their credentials (including professors and doctors of English) being more important than where their reproductive organs are, wouldn’t you say? Sorry if this all sounds a little like a lecture, you see a part from all my research and work, that’s all I’ve been doing for, well, decades.

        • Thanks for providing the statistics to support your points they make fascinating reading. Oh, sorry, my mistake. Suggesting evidence exists and then failing to actually provide it doesn’t help your argument, I would’ve thought such a learned man would know that. And thank you for your patronising tone, I thought the use of ‘my dear’ particularly classy.

          I suggest you do a little more research on the average age of literary bloggers as I think you’ll find you’re somewhat off the mark there.

          The point of the list was to counter your ‘And of the last 30 years, also many more male heavy-hitters, also true fact’, which again was written without any evidence to support it.

          As for your ‘That sheer level of experience has yet to be gained by a female…’, I’m well aware of that. Now I thought that was because we’d had a couple of centuries of patriarchal rule and thirty years of playing catch up wasn’t going to rule that out but apparently I’m wrong and it’s all equal now, the law says so and that’s always effective in changing people’s opinions and inherent biases. If only there were some academic studies we could read on this.

          Anyway I must get on, there’s an essay by Rebecca Solnit that’s crying out for me to re-read it.

      • Ah, Rebecca Solnit, yes. Now, would that be Pale Bus, Pale Rider or Wanderlust: A History of Walking (a favourite), or the one in which she says: “you don’t fight being patronised by patronising others in return.” and then “I’ve met at least, ooh, two or three men, maybe four, who were perfectly tolerable human beings” … Don’t worry, she was just joking here.

        Obviously I hit a nerve without intent; I call all ‘dear’, male or female, have done for over 70 years so please don’t take it personally, otherwise might come across as somewhat of a womanplainer.

        Re age, I applied it only to you and ‘your’ bloggers (not all bloggers!) re the evidence of maturity, and I quote: ‘I’ve replied and asked him to point me to his statistical evidence. I like playing with them. He’s clearly a complete ignoramus… I’ve started a reading list for him of women I think have been ignored by the establishment. If you’d like to add to it I’d be greatful [sic]. I looked at the whole comment. It’s a quite [sic] spectacular piece of wrong-headedness.’

        Re my evidence, I’ve told you where, how and what – it is all there, but you must feel free to, as any good academic, research and validate yourself, if you really care. Shame you ignored the real pearls in my piece, it seems they have now been covered in mire. But, alas, I must now leave you, in omne tempus, to your mire.

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  22. P.S.S in all the fuss, never had a chance to say congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed. Please excuse overheated remarks that came at the end of my first comment. Other than that, I enjoyed our debate, well played I say!

  23. “…Whether readers want to acknowledge this bias or not, it exists; writing created by women is still considered lesser to that of their male counterparts….”

    Has anybody actually studied this in any more detail?

    For example do people who prefer male writers over female really believe women are less capable of good writing, or do they just prefer (in general) to read books written by men?

    We might draw a comparison with people who prefer female nurses, even though they consider male nurses to be just as skilled and competent at their jobs.

    Reading books is a kind of relationship (an investment) not just with the material itself but with the idea we have of the author. Some people (and this includes women) might just prefer the idea of reading a book written by a man.

    We know that statistically women tend to vote for male politicians over female politicians, even though I’m sure most women voters would not claim men are literally superior to women.

    Perhaps the real problem is having these prestigious prizes for literature in the first place and imagining they can ever be truly objective?

    We all understand that you can be a good musician or a bad musician (and these things can be objectively measured) …..but if I asked you to tell me what the ‘best’ music released last year so I could go out and buy that CD you would probably say “Well what kind of music do you like?”

    • All of the examples you site constitute gender bias which is inherent and there are many studies proving it exists, a simple Google search will provide you with access to a number of them.

      Your point about imagining that a prize could ever be objective is, of course, a valid one. However, I’m not suggesting that there will never be any bias, merely that there shouldn’t be such an obvious one over a period of several decades.

      • “..All of the examples you site constitute gender bias ..”

        Right but gender bias is not the same thing as gender preference.

        Although there are objective ways to measure how good (or dreadful) a piece of writing is, there comes a point where the value of a book is simply a matter of taste.

        I am all for encouraging (or demanding) as fair and balanced a book prize as possible, BUT I do not think having an equal number of male/ female candidates or winners or judges is necessarily evidence that fairness and balance has been achieved, or will be achieved.

        To continue my previous analogy… it is well known that women voters tend to vote for male politicians more that women politicians. Therefore to insist (as many people do) that more female politicians should be put in office until an equal number of male/ female politicians is achieved is to go against fairness and balance. It is an example of IMPOSING gender bias, in the name of removing it.

        I am not saying these prizes are not biased… in fact I would imagine they are hugely biased, and probably corrupt, in numerous ways (not just gender) – given the prestige and sales they bestow onto their winners and their publishers.

        I am just pointing out that male/ female ratio is not a valid way of determining unfair gender bias.

        This is why I question the point of having such prestigious prizes in the first place. They are utopian and silly. Everyone participating has their own agenda.

        The only way to avoid unfair bias would be to keep adding more judges in order to reduce the influence of any potentially corrupt and biased judges…… eventually you would end up with books being released and judged ‘en masse’ by the general public, either by writing reviews in blogs etc or just by voting with their wallet and sending their favourite books up the sales charts.

        The most fair and unbiased book prize is therefore no prize at all 🙂

      • I’d say if gender issues could be removed at the submission stage there might be a better basis going forward. I could easily see how in the modern day publisher would see the winning percentage of male authors and choose to follow that path, possibly to the point they leave out a better book written by a female to their own demise in the competition. That of course, would not have factored in the early years and is only a possible explanation for submission bias in the modern day. It just feels to me that seems a far more concrete way gender bias could crop up than the judges themselves just having their own agenda with any particular author’s gender/race etc. That being said, it is slightly unnerving that if we (the people who have commented on the article) were to all sit on the panel, I would find it impossible to believe that anybody here could fully (important to stress) judge all the books there without any agenda (and that’s with nobody here seeming overtly biased in any respect-that’s not even to include the downright fanatics that could be out there waiting to bash women/men/certain races).
        I think we are all in agreement with both opinions above that objectivity is very hard to achieve, and even to a point I nearly would listen to the idea of “just scrap it” since we will never be able to fully achieve consistency. That being said if anyone has a man booker prize waiting in the wings for me I’d be more than happy to accept!

  24. The obvious solution to this would be to make all the submissions public! 3 out of 13 might look bad, but if the actual submissions were 120 to 36 in favour of men (and they may well be…), then that’s actually a fair reflection… If the publishers were held accountable for what they were submitting, the chances of more female-written submissions (and long- and short-listed titles) would inevitably increase.

    • Hi Tony, You’re absolutely right. Submissions seem to be shrouded in secrecy though (besides those I could make out from glimpses on the video released earlier in the week!).

      • I believe that it’s something the publishers insist on – probably so that they can tell all their writers “Yes, of course we entered you for the Booker!”.

  25. I completely agree Tony. I think that long listing from an unknown collection of books that none of us have yet had the chance of reading actually devalues the prize. Maybe it is my cynical lawyer’s mind but I immediately distrust the result if there is not transparency in the process of selection.

    • I’d like to think transgender writers would be included in any list, although I know that’s not the case. Are there any transgender writers that you’d particularly recommend?

      • Hence my previous point about it being Equality and Diversity now. There are now 12 diverse classifications which can be considered regarding people (it was up to 9 until 2008) – look them up. But, if we respect all and treat people as, well people, inclusion will apply to everybody regardless of situation, and books judged on merit alone.

      • While I don’t think the commenter above was serious, there is at least one transgendered author who was shortlisted for the Man Booker. Jan Morris was shortlisted in 1985.

  26. I only feel slightly better, reading your post. I was just so … angry when I saw the results, and with 2 female judges on the panel; it feels like a betrayal somehow.

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  30. What a lovely, insightful post. I myself was quite surprised when I looked at the longlist and noted that very few of the books were written by women. It is most certainly an interesting debate. Personally, I think that the identity of the authors of each book should be withheld from the judges while they’re reading them. It would certainly make them more objective and less prone to making subconscious gender-biased choices. I remember reading once about a study where students were asked to read several different novels without knowing their titles or who wrote them, and it was revealed that majority of them actually preferred the books written by lesser known authors than those written by award-winning ones. The same set of books was given to a different group of students but without withholding any information about the authors, and the results showed that these students preferred the books written by award-winning novelists and found a lot of fault in the books that were written by unknown authors. Without realising it, the identity of the authors had swayed their opinions of the books.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you. I agree with you about the withholding of the author’s identity, I’m just not sure how easy it is with ‘big name’ books being publicised months in advance.

      That study sounds interesting. I wonder if anyone can let us know who conducted it or where it was carried out…

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