In a Year of Books, Where are All the Women?

We were glad when Mark Zuckerberg picked Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day  as one of his 23 picks for his book club, the Year of Reading. It’s a heady list. It includes Henry Kissinger’s World Order, William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience, and Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I can only figure that Zuck chose Portfolios of the Poor as a breather between those heavyweights.

Maddie Crum of the Huffington Post points out that there’s just one thing wrong with Zuckerberg’s list. Where are all the women? Women write important books, too. Crum has some great suggestions including Katherine Boo’s National Book Award winner, Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

Crum does, however, find a few books by women on Zuckerberg’s list:

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and On Immunity by Eula Biss are both exceptional books that were recognized in both literary communities and the respective communities that are involved with the themes of their books. Alexander’s book centers on race and the legal system, and Biss' confronts anti-vaccine proponents’ flimsy rationale. 

And she gives a shout out to Portfolios:

Another worthy book on the list, Portfolios of the Poor, was penned by four authors, one of whom was a woman. All three are excellent reads, and their inclusion on the list makes sense.

I’m happy to say that there’s another female author that Crum missed. The Portfolios of the Poor team actually included 2 women: Orlanda Ruthven and Daryl Collins. Collins has been a leader in financial inclusion efforts, and she just gave a talk at the Council on Foreign relations on gender and financial inclusion. And Ruthven has been working actively on jobs issues, especially women’s employment in India’s garment sector.

Every now and then, the mistake goes the other way: Last week, Time magazine listed the accomplished (and male) Evelyn Waugh as one of 100 notable female writers, forcing a retraction from Time.

This time we happily have an expansion of the list, and a chance to recognize both Orlanda Ruthven and Daryl Collins, two authors who are well worth following.