World Book Night 2014 (Or Should We Say World Bollocks Night?)

22nd Apr 2014

World Book Night 2014
Well, this awkward... here at For Books’ Sake, we wanted to present you with a full-on fangirling list of all the amazing women writers featured in the 2014 World Book Night.

We were going to wax lyrical about all the kickass authors up for grabs and include a couple of recommendations for who you should give them to if you’ve volunteered to be a “giver”.

Run by the Reading Agency, World Book Night takes place tomorrow, April 23rd 2014.  Described as a “celebration of reading and books,” its mandate is to get more people reading. Annually, they choose 20-25 titles, and volunteers are sent parcels of books they can distribute however they see fit.

Obviously For Books’ Sake are usually all over this, we’ve been givers, we’ve done eventswe’ve promoted it, we’ve gone into raptures over the women the list has featured.

And since it’s a rare example of a list that usually gives equal rating to men and women writers (after the first one which featured only eight women writers from a line-up of twenty-five, it seemed they’d seen the error of their ways), we usually have a great time.

Noticing a lot of that word; “usually”, in there? Well, that’s where it gets a bit awkward for us. Because, for the most part, World Book Night 2014 has turned its back on women writers.

Claiming that the focus of this year is to get more boys and men reading (a very admirable focus and one For Books’ Sake fully support and celebrate), WBN have decided that the way to do this is to decrease the number of women writers they’re promoting for World Book Night 2014, and to increase the number of men on the list.

I know that whenever I pick up a book by a man a massive siren goes off in my flat and I black out for 4 hours, I presume it’s the same for dudes?Basically, they’ve decided the best way to get men reading more is to reinforce the idea that men should only read books by male authors.

Out of twenty writers chosen for World Book Night 2014, we only need to profile six women writers for you. Six out of twenty.

Because urgh, ladies, amiright guys? Nothing worse than trying to get your testosterone on with a manly wedge-o-words and finding out it was written by someone who doesn’t identify as the same gender as you.

Yeesh, can men even understand words written by women? I know that whenever I pick up a book by a man a massive siren goes off in my flat and I black out for 4 hours, so I presume it’s the same for dudes?

Anyway, enough about how WBN are reinforcing the gender divide between men and women readers. Let’s put aside the fact that women read books by men and women, and are currently reading at a much higher rate than men.

We’re sure that doing more of what’s already been shown not to work is a completely worthwhile endeavor for WBN. Honest. So without further ado, here’s the lowdown on the six women writers they have decided to allow into their sausage party;

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie

There’s a reason she’s still known as the Queen of Crime, and that reason is that if anyone was ever bequeathed with powers by a higher deity to write about murder most foul it was probably Agatha Christie.

For my money the best Christie are her Miss Marple whodunnits but I’d never say no to a classic Poirot and that’s what we’re getting here.

Cora is murdered with a hatchet, the day after making sinister hints about murder at her brother Richard’s funeral. Poirot foxtrots in to unravel a conflicting web of false alibis and hidden motives, followed by a classic parlour denouement scene.

Hello Mum by Bernardine Evaristo

Hinging on how one bad decision can have ongoing ramifications for an entire community of people; this YA novel focuses on the stabbing of a teenage boy outside a chip shop.

The book takes the form of a letter from him to his mum while she struggles to understand how this could have happened.

Warning: The last time I read a Evaristo novel it left me a shivering, sobbing wreck (hey-lo Blonde Roots, re-imagining of slaveries history where the slave traders were African and their human cattle were Europeans).

She’s the kind of writer who completely rinses you as a reader but also makes it impossible to put the book down.

Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon

Despite the slightly gross blurb for this book (dubiously suggests that women with facial hair and ill health can expect to be dumped by their partners toot-sweet), this tangled narrative of misunderstanding, false identities, awkward coincidences and forbidden love is a good-un.

Helen is just about to dump her older, married lover when he leaves his wife and moves in with her.

Rather than just tell him she doesn’t fancy him anymore, Helen assumes a fake identity, makes friends with his wife, frenches his son and does everything in a the line of self-sabotage short of coming clean about her emotions. Addictive reading.

Geezer Girls by Dreda Say Mitchell

Promoted by our founding ed, Jazzy Jane Bradley in the latest episode of the For Books’ Sake podcastGeezer Girls has got us all riled up.

It tells the story of four childhood friends who are coerced into a life of crime by a shadowy bloke called The Geezer, they decide to run away from him and their disappearance appears to have worked until he turns up ten years later. At one of their weddings. With one last job for them…

To say we’re excited is an understatement. Intrigue, crime, a damning depiction of Britain’s care system? The women on this list are few and far between (and writers of colour even fewer) but Mitchell ticks all our boxes.

Whatever It Takes by Adele Parks

WHAT IF LOVE’S NOT ENOUGH?!? screams the tagline. At a time when most women are currently trying to hold down work, support family members (both young and aging), maintain a healthy relationship with our own bodies and attempt to grab five minutes to catch up on For Books’ Sake; Whatever It Takes is especially relevant.

The tale of wife attempting to support friend, husband and aging mother when the desires of all three frequently conflict; this is a familiar tale. While it may not be the most relaxing read, it is one of the most relevant titles on this year’s list.

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

Another crime book! Clearly there’s a bit of a theme running through the women writer picks for World Book Night 2014, but we’re not complaining.

After the runaway success of Gone Girl and the recent serialisation of Death Comes to Pemberley, women crime writers are continuing to gain mainstream recognition, and long may it continue!

Spanning 20 years, Black Hills tells the story of childhood sweethearts Coop and Lil who, having reunited later in life, have become the unsuspecting prey of a shadowy hunter.

As Coop puts his private eye skills to work, Lil fights to open a Wildlife Refuge and they both try to ignore the feeling they are being watched…

So what do you think of this years World Book Night list? Were they right to cut down on the number of women authors? Or is this just another example of how no ones wins when we gender the books men and women should read?


  • Elaine Peppard says:

    Until October 2013, I exclusively read men. I felt that I never identified with the female voice and often derided their opinions (I say ‘their’, Im a woman, and a writer). I now feel both deeply ashamed of this, and proud to say that I have changed. #Readwomen2014 helped hugely. I have almost exclusively read women this year, and not once have I felt like they were writing on subjects my inner male voice couldn’t relate to either. From Atwood to Wharton, women aren’t just talking about marriage and babies. They’re talking politics, sex, war, infidelity, birth, death, murder, fear, love, anger, rebellion, depression, orgasms, family, hatred, revenge, in voices louder and more subtle than most men.

    • Kate Jones says:

      Hey there ForBooksSake, was just wondering if you had a direct link to a site where World Book Night explicitly say that their aim this year is to get more men and boys reading? I’ve had a look at the site and can’t see anything. I’m reluctant to support this endeavour it if is deliberately gender biased, but my company is looking into supporting it, so I would need to be able to cite my sources if I decide to opt out for Equal Opps reasons…