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Monday, 9 November 2009

Top ten books list tagged 'sexist'

The British publishing world has been plunged into a new row over sexism after the Publishers Weekly omitted to include a single female author in its list of the year's top 10 titles.

Leading British women writers rounded on the industry magazine yesterday after its pick of 2009's must-read books failed to nominate some of the year's biggest literary successes, such as Hilary Mantel, whose Wolf Hall won the Man Booker Prize, or Alice Munro, who won its international equivalent.

The Independent quoted Lionel Shriver, the prize-winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, as saying that the selection was further evidence of the weirdly retrograde sexual sensibility that dominates publishing.

"Every time a list like this comes out it just helps to propagate the same attitudes," Shriver said, adding, "Publishing takes men more seriously than women. Female writing is regarded as second tier; there is a default assumption that men are the heavy hitters."

Louisa Ermelino, the novelist, journalist and the magazine's reviews director, said it had disturbed us that its list was all male, but insisted: "We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the big books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet." But authors were dismayed that Mantel had failed to make the grade.

Helen Dunmore, whose A Spell of Winter won the inaugural Orange Prize in 1996, said: "It does seem strange that it wouldn't include Wolf Hall, one of Mantel's finest books and a hugely enjoyable one."

Claire Tomalin, the biographer, who is married to the novelist Michael Frayn, said: "It sounds like an eccentric list and it is a bit odd to exclude Hilary Mantel. In my pantheon, there are lots of very good female writers."

The novelist Kathy Lette added: "As women make up 90 per cent of the fiction-buying public, perhaps we should make a point and girl-cott male authors until our work is given the same critical acclaim and public backing."

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