27 January 2018

Bad Girl Book Club –
the book club you may want to join!

by Melodie Campbell

Yes, there really is a Bad Girl Book Club (although it might also be known as the Lazy Bookclub.)

Right here, in Southern Ontario, a group of gals meet twice a year (hence the ‘lazy’) to lay out a set of criteria for a year of reading.

Okay, yes, there might be booze involved. And possibly a pig-out of gargantuan portions. But reading’s supposed to be fun, eh?

Here’s the thing: Our ranks include two association CEOs and senior execs. We aren’t the sort of people who like to be told what to do. So we don’t all read the same book every month. Instead, we draw up a set of criteria that we agree to meet.

Want to try it yourself? Get together a bunch of reading mates (buds if you’re American) and try this list:

2017 Reading Challenge
Readers must read at least 12 out of 14
  1. A book publisher this year
  2. A book you can finish in a day
  3. A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller
  4. A book chosen by your spouse, partner, child or BFF
  5. A book you previously abandoned
  6. A book that has won a major award within the last five years
  7. A book that is based on or is a true story
  8. A book that was made into a movie
  9. A book that was translated from another language (forcing us all to leave North America)
  10. A book in a genre you never read
  11. A book about travel adventures
  12. A book written from a non-human narrative perspective
  13. A Giller Prize Winner
  14. A book that starts with the same letter of your first name
Alternative criteria from the 2016 list:

  • A book published before you were born.
  • A book you should have read in school but didn’t.
At each meeting we compare books read, and make recommendations. This year, I added a new dimension to my list.

Increase the number of books that feature female protagonists written by female writers, to 75%. That is, 75% of the books I read this year should be written by women and should feature female protagonists.

How am I doing on that issue? I tried hard. I really did. I’m sitting at 61 books out of 95 read. Not quite 75%. Very simply, I’m having a hard time finding books that meet this criteria outside of cozies and romance, both of which I’m not keen on.

Female crime writers often write male protagonists. Even our bestselling author at Crime Writers of Canada – Louise Penny – writes a male inspector. We have secretly discussed among ourselves whether she would have been as successful if Gamache had been a woman. That’s a heated discussion for another day.

What is notable is that there seems to be a trend for male writers to write female protagonists. These may be good books, but they aren’t women’s stories in the way that I mean. They are written with a different lens.

So I’m struggling to find 75 books in year that I want to read, that are by women telling women’s stories.

How did I do on the rest of the list? 14 out of 14, of course! And the wonderful thing – I forced myself out of the usual crime ghetto, to read an assortment of books that I never would have read otherwise. Some – like The Nightingale and The Alice Network – were terrific.

If you’re interested in the list of books I read to meet the above criteria, let me know and I’ll post it here.

Have a wonderful year of books in 2018!

(Here's the book everyone in my group read for the "A book you can read in one day" category:

8 comments:

Eve Fisher said...

That sounds like a fun Book Club.
Due, sigh, to the world we live in, finding female protagonists written by female authors is very hard. Here's an option: The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site. http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/ Yes, they're mostly romance, and I don't do much of that, but I love their reviews.
There are also people like Anne Tyler, N. K. Jemisin (sci-fi/fantasy - her Hundred Thousand Kingdoms trilogy is pretty damned good...), the late great Ursula LeGuin, and others.
Oh, Liza Cody.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Melodie, I think you will find this of some interest:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/26/staunch-prize-launched-for-thrillers-that-avoid-sexual-violence-against-women

The prize is established by a screenwriter, Bridget LAWLESS.

I've been rereading some old favorites & now I'm expanding my horizons to books I probably should have already read ... hubby was surprised just yesterday when I admitted I've never read Dune.

Melodie Campbell said...

Elizabeth, I shared that prize with others! Talk about timely. I'll be getting that reading list of finalists, for sure.

Melodie Campbell said...

Eve, thanks for that list. I've read a few on there. Plus, of course, our own friends :)

Barb Goffman said...

Crime novels by women featuring a female main character that aren't cozy? Challenge accepted!
The Gabriella Giovanni novels by Kristi Belcamino
Any of the stand-alone novels written by Catriona McPherson
The Kate Burkholder by Linda Castillo
The Vera novels by Anne Cleeves (Okay, these I haven't read, but they're police procedurals, so I assume they're not cozy.)
The Timber Creek novels by Margaret Mizushima
The Veronica Speedwell novels by Deanna Rayburn
Both series by Sasscer Hill
The Dana Hargrove novels by V.S. Kemanis
The Gail Connor novels by Barbara Parker
The Troy Chance novels by Sara J. Henry
The Clare Fergusson novels by Julia Spencer-Fleming
The Alex Bernier novels by Beth Saulnier
The Cutaway by Christina Kovac
The stand-alone novels by Alafair Burke
The Nina Reilly novels by Perri O'Shaunessy
The Melanie Vargas series by Michelle Martinez
I could go on. That must be at least seventy books. Many of them are police procedural or legal mysteries or involve reporters. All provide solid storytelling. Happy reading!

Eve Fisher said...

And how could I forget Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels:
My Brilliant Friend
The Story of a New Name
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
The Lost Child

Melodie Campbell said...

Barb and Eve - I've read so many of those - BUT there are a few on your lists that I haven't, and I'm excited! So glad I posted this post (even though I notice it wasn't a popular one for some reason. Two female-centred?)

Melodie Campbell said...

I've read the Vera novels, by the way, and I would say the BBC television series is even better. Highly recommend it.