I've been to this particular store many times, and in the past, I seldom ever left the religion and philosophy section. My academic library grew largely due to trips there when I used to live in smaller city in the same area and to one other in a town north of there. I lived in an area where several seminaries existed, so there were a lot of used seminary texts turned in for a little extra cash and I benefited greatly from the opportunity to get some good books at a much reduced price.
I made a vow when I went this time that I would not spend another dime on a religion text, so for the two hours that we there I wandered around the writing, fiction, travel narrative, and nature sections. Oh, okay. I'll admit it. I peaked at the religion books, looking for a couple of specific titles, but I swear I didn't last more than two minutes in that section. Okay, maybe ten.
It was fun reacquainting myself with some of my favorite fiction and travel narrative authors. A couple of them had new novels out in the last four or five years that I hadn't heard about, one of which I purchased. It's an Anne Lamott novel, based, like all of her fiction, in Marin County, CA. It's a good book, but it wouldn't matter if it wasn't. I swoon at the mention of the Wendy's in San Rafael, or barbecued oysters in Point Reyes, or the multitude of other familiar places and sights. Reading the landscape of her work is like taking a stolen glance at a lover. I'm swept away to another place, heart swelling with warmth and love, oblivious to anything else going around me.
I spent a great deal of my time carefully looking over the nature section. My interests in nature writing are growing, and I wanted to get a good feel for the varieties of work in that area. What struck me was the obvious dearth of titles written by women. With some obvious exceptions, like Annie Dillard, most of the titles I found in this particular bookstore were written by men.
Now, my survey, of course, was completely unscientific and it was a used bookstore, but I assume the selection is fairly representative of the genre. So, I'm putting some questions out there for those "in the know":
- Is the field of nature writing overwhelmingly dominated by men and is there a scholarly explanation for that? (I made some assumptions about why and imagine I'm not far off with them, but am curious if there is anyone who's actually read anything that offers a more educated explanation than my assumptions.)
- What women nature writers have you read and do you recommend?
- Do anyone of you know of anyone who's actually noted major differences in the way men write about nature versus the way women do?