May 2022

Books by women that every man should read

Studies show men avoid female authors. Ahead of the Women’s prize for fiction, chair of judges Mary Ann Sieghart finds out why 

The film-maker Richard Curtis realised during the first lockdown that he would at last have time to immerse himself in books. More specifically books by women, “to compensate for 63 years of male bias”, he explains. “It’s been an amazing two years: the glory of Anne TylerAnn PatchettAli SmithZadie SmithDaphne du MaurierChimamanda Ngozi Adichie and so many others.”

Now, 32 books later, he has become positively evangelical. When a male friend had a birthday recently, Curtis gave him four novels by female writers. “I have given away more copies of Olive Kitteridge [by Elizabeth Strout] than you can imagine,” he says. “I spend my whole time romping through bookshops saying: ‘Why haven’t you got more Anne Tyler novels on your shelves?’ I’ve had a genuine epiphany in terms of the novels that I read.”

About the author

Journalist, author, non-executive director, broadcaster

Mary Ann Sieghart spent 20 years as Assistant Editor and columnist at The Times and won a large following for her columns on politics, economics, feminism, parenthood and life in general. She has presented many programmes on BBC Radio 4, such as Start the Week, Profile, Analysis, Fallout and One to One. She chaired the revival of The Brains Trust on BBC2 and recently spent a year as a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. She has chaired the Social Market Foundation think tank, is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London, and sits on numerous boards. She is Chair of the judges for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022.

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Mary Ann Sieghart