On Thursday morning, I’m going to start the new year with my friend Shawn Smucker’s book The Day The Angels Fell. It seems so fitting to break my fast from reading books by men with a book about a young boy on a journey written by a man who looks beyond stereotypes and “roles” and see individuals.  I am eager.

Yet, I want to be sure not to lose the insights from this focus on women’s writing. My year of reading women has opened me to all kinds of insights about my own preferences for reading and about the way our culture still stereotypes writing by women as being about only domestic topics.

About myself, I learned that my favorite writers – the ones whose words sound gongs of recognition and insight in my spirit – are women: Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, Toni Morrison, A. S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, Audre Lord, Louise Erdrich, Zadie Smith, Annie Dillard.  I might add Claire Messud to that list now, too.

I’ve also learned that at this point of early middle-age I am craving books by women who are writing from this place in their own lives – books that are honest about the challenges of an aging body, about being childless when most everyone has children, about STILL not having it all figured out.  (By the way, I’m getting some of these stories at the wonderful journal Full Grown People.)  I want more diversity in the stories that make it to print in general, but particularly in the stories that women tell.

Finally, I was reminded that writing by women is vast and various as snowflakes.  That while the publishing industry may lean toward publishing “chick lit,” which I do enjoy from time to time, there is more to women’s writing than “easy” stories and romance because, well, there is more to our lives.  So much more.

So while I’ll be allowing the work of men to drift back into my reading more often, I’m going to read more women’s work, my singular attempt to balance the skew toward men’s work as “normal” or “neutral” by showing that what we as women say matters to everyone, not just to other women.

You can see all the books I read in 2014 here. (A couple men snuck in there – Ed Cyzewski and Preston Yancey because I got review copies, and I did sneak a few pages of Billy Coffey‘s new book, too.)  In total, I read 40 books (10 short of my goal), and 36 of those were by women. Not too bad.

How did your reading list for 2014 look? What are your favorite writers who are women? What do you think our culture says about women writers? Any works about women in mid-life that you’d recommend?

Seats in the Painted Steps Writers Group are filling up for February – only 8 spaces remain. Sign up for your today to work in community, receive gentle accountability, and get that noodge we all need to finish our drafts.  More details here – http://www.andilit.com/painted-steps-writers/