Tell me, if you would, what each of these lists has in common.
1984, The Odyssey, Infinite Jest, Super Sad True Love Story. Lots of non-fiction, typically covering: history, science, or art/art theory. Neil deGrasse Tyson/Brian Greene/Richard Feynman. And biographies/autobiographies.
Just finished Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which is incredible. I am sappily fond of David Foster Wallace for many many reasons.
Confederacy of Dunces, Girl Curious Hair (surprised, wanted to really hate him), everything Salinger or Kundera.
Currently reading Life by Keith Richards and miscellaneous repair manuals. Some favorites: White Noise, Libra, Assassination Vacation, Shop Class as Soulcraft, Outliers.
All the Kings Men, The Man in the High Castle, 100 Years of Solitude, The Odyssey, Who Censored Roger Rabbit, The 1,001 Nights, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Catullus.
They are lists of books, it's true. And they're charmingly eclectic, up to a point. I mean, you have to admit that there's something adorable about a list that includes works by both Homer and Neil deGrasse Tyson. But look a little closer, and you might notice something missing: not one of these lists of favorite books includes a single novel written by a woman.
The common thread uniting these? They all herald from the OKCupid profiles of men who've either emailed me or caught my attention in the last few weeks. I haven't met any of these gentlemen in person yet, but they all seem perfectly nice, bright and open-minded. They are men who claim, either in their profiles or in the answers to their questions, a certain level of liberalism---even feminism. But nary a one lists a single book by a woman---not even a freaking short story---as among their favorites.
Whenever I get an email from a promising guy, I dread scrolling down to this part of his profile, knowing that pretty much every time I'm going to feel a twinge of disappointment in a man I otherwise find interesting. Why is it, I ask myself, that none of these men can be bothered to include a woman among their favorite authors? The likely answer, of course, is that they probably haven't read anything by a woman---with the possible exception of Doris Kearns Goodwin---since college. (Habits developed in childhood---which we've discussed before---follow people for life, kids.)
By contrast, here are the favorite books of some awesome, single, straight ladies in the same age range and geography:
A Visit From the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan), Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Michael Chabon), The Unnamed (Joshua Ferris).
I have favourites ranging from the Hitchhiker's Guide books to Jane Austen (cliche I know) to Stephen Fry's books.
Beckett, Plath, Hughes, Jack London, Brontës, Poe, Camus, Anthony Minghella's radio plays, Donne, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Strindberg, Thoreau, Marx, artists' journals (especially Munch), T.S. Eliot, Braudel, Benjamin.
Nabokov. Wells Tower. Lorrie Moore. Jennifer Egan. (Writing a list of books could take me forever and would only look boring on screen.)
The Handmaid's Tale, Middlesex, House of Mirth, I Capture The Castle, Persuasion, Grimm's Fairy Tales
This is hardly a scientific survey. But I can't help but think that when men---especially supposedly progressive, liberal, worth-dating men---can't be bothered to read women's writing (or, if nothing else, to cop to it online), we have yet another symptom of our still-yawning gender gap. (On the flip side of things, note the woman who feels the need to temper her love of Austen, one of the Western canon's greatest social satirists, with an aside noting how cliche her admiration is.)
I truly believe that "small" things like this are just the bubbles popping on the surface of a roiling body of sexist water, seemingly benign indicators of the ongoing wage gap (even more notable for women of color), the constant, unending street harassment women face on a daily basis, the one in four women who will be raped in their lifetimes---and on, and on, and on.
Plus, these dudes are missing out on some seriously awesome writing. Margaret Atwood is for real, bros. And would guarantee a reply email, to boot.