The Publishers Weekly list of the "100 best books of 2009" includes shockingly few works by women. So what else is new? The Sisters in Crime response has been posted by SinC President Marcia Talley at

Take a look and offer your own views on the topic.

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It's probably a good thing to get them out in the open. You can't get past anything by hiding it.

The gender stuff is interesting, My wife is a mechanical engineer. Through the 80's and 90's the number of women in engineering was increasing slowly but steadily. Now that has stopped and even started to reverse in some places.

The pornification has a huge female factor - we're just way past the point where we can blame it on men. Of course, to continue this discussion would mean admitting I know anything about the porn industry and that can't be true ;)
PW's own introduction to the list indicated they were making choices to create balance. ("There was kicking and screaming for a science fiction title.") Why not for gender, too?

And Marcia's experience with selecting stories for an anthology---the gender balance happened once the submissions were blind--is an indication that other factors besides quality are at work concerning women in publishing.
That can't be an accurate interpretation of the kicking and screaming comment as earlier it was stated that the judges selected the books "we thought were the top 10 books of the year with no other consideration." The people kicking and screaming for that book were kicking and screaming for it based on its merits not its genre classification.
I'm beginning to think that any "best of the year" list is a bad idea, whether it's put together by reviewers from PW or the NY Times or any other publication. To adequately judge, every judge would have to read every book that was published during the year, and clearly few people can do that. They read the books that claim attention for one reason or another. Maybe the "best" book -- the most skillfully crafted, the most original -- published this year was put out by a micro press with a 50-copy printing. But editors of major review publications aren't likely to know it exists. If they did read it, what are the odds they would proclaim such an obscure book the best of the year?

If they can't judge every single book that was published during the year, they can't put out a "best of the year" list that can be taken seriously. (Personally, I'm astonished that THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett isn't one of PW's 10 best books, but judging by the novels that did make it, the judges favor quirky, experimental fiction.)
My guess is that such choices are based not only on the judges' past year's reading, but also on their combined awareness of reviews by multiple others. No doubt, the committee agreed on a number of titles worthyy of consideration, and then everybody made sure to have read those.

The problem you mention does affect other awards, namely the Anthony and Agatha. I have no idea how seriously the Edgar is affected, but the Shamus, because it deals only with a precise, narrow category, makes it possible for every judge to read every novel that qualifies.
Because they also specifically said they were ignoring gender: "We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz."

Now, you can say they're lying, but you would need some evidence to back that up with.

Is there any evidence to support gender discrimination?

Is it possible SinC is just using this incident to promote its own agenda? Because, if there is evidence of gender discrimination, they must be preparing to file suit against PW, right? Or report it to the ACLU? Otherwise, as I see it, SinC is just causing a disturbance. It was, after all, SinC who brought gender into the picture to start with.
So SinC should just shut up--is that what you're saying? Caramba.
Every 'best of' list is subjective by nature and this one's no exception. This particular group of people enjoyed this particular set of books most of all, that's all. If you ask 20 more people you'll get 20 different lists.

My top 12 books for last year had 10 men and 2 women. My top 10 so far this year has 3 women. Do I want to read 5 more brilliant books by women, that will shoot to the top of my 'best of year' list before the end of the year? No. I would love to read 5 more brilliant books though - and I don't give a shit who they're written by.

This argument always makes me mad at awards time, because when nominated authors read such discussions some of the shine must go off their nomination - men AND women. Why should awards panels or people writing their best of lists choose books based on the sex of the author, rather than choosing the books THEY LIKED BEST no matter whether they were written by a man, woman, or little green alien from the planet Zog? I seldom agree 100% with any awards shortlist, or any 'best of' list. But that doesn't mean that any such list is wrong or that MY best of list is any better - it just happens to be MY list.

Instead of saying "This list is crap. It's wrong. It doesn't have enough women/European authors/books written by aardvaarks," why don't people just list their OWN favourites. I'd love that. That way I can find more great books.
Yes, it would be a lot better if they called the list, "Our Favourite Books," instead of, "Best."

This attempt to make it seem objective is silly. This is art not science. We can give long explanations as to why we like something more than something else and sometimes we can even be convinced something is good by this kind of discussion but it's very rare.
Yes, it would be a lot better if they called the list, "Our Favourite Books," instead of, "Best."

Absolutely agree.

Of course, it all comes down to who the judges are. Does one trust their "judgment"? What experience do they bring to the process? What is their critical background? Are they known to be unbiased? (Perhaps at this point someone will ask how many of the judges were women. That might be slightly more relevant than asking how many women are on the list).
Surely PW, with it's background of critiquing huge numbers of new books every year can be trusted to have some qualifications.
I was going to stay out of this, but IJ brings up a point I wish had been discussed in more detail during the Bouchercon panel referred to above.

So far the one comment here with which I wholeheartedly agree is John McFetridge's: they should have called it "Our Favourite Books." (Or even "favorite.") IJ's point is the key to the discussion. Who were the judges? I don't know and I'm not going to guess, but if women represented 50% or more of the panel--or even close to it--this is an entirely different discussion.

Discussions have been floating around the blogosphere for several weeks about the graphic and sometimes disgusting violence done to women in books, many of which are written by women. Some seem to excuse the authors by saying these are the books that sell. No one seems to have a good answer as to why they sell so well to women. (I'm not advocating censorship here, except possibly by the individual. I don't write stories like this, and won't. I don't knowingly read them, either.)

Too often discussions of this sort take on the attitude that the group in question is oppressed by The Man. What's the verdict here is most of the selectors were women? Will it be that women have been conditioned over the years to choose male writers? That's a whole different , and probably more valuable, discussion.


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