At Goodreads, we have long been interested in the subject of professional opinion versus user-generated opinion, so this year we thought it was high time to revisit the anatomy of a prizewinning book.
We learned that male authors win more often than female authors, and novels centered on a woman’s journey don’t win major literary prizes as often as stories about men or featuring multiple protagonists. Men tend to win more and write about men’s stories more. In fact, an in-depth analysis of book data on Goodreads found that only 18 percent of 95 prizewinning books from 2000 to 2017 featured a woman as the standalone main character.
Together with the analytics team, engineers, and designers, we looked at a random sample size of 40,000 active members on the site (20,000 men and 20,000 women) and examined 95 prizewinning books from 2000 to 2017. These books won the following prizes: PEN/Faulkner Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, The Man Booker Prizes, and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Awards.
The results support a very interesting 2015 study by author and researcher Nicola Griffith. It’s also been two years since Griffith’s post, so we looked to see if there were any new trends in the data.
In 2016 and 2017 the ten works included in our research mainly followed the same pattern as the one Griffith saw, with more male authors winning, and more books with a lead male protagonist winning. Even this week, the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fictionwas awarded to Andrew Sean Greer for Less: A Novel, which according to our site is an enjoyable read, but still a book by a man about a man. Interestingly, there was one book in the past two years that bucked the trend entirely, The Underground Railroad, which featured a female protagonist and was written by a male author (Colson Whitehead).
So, please enjoy this infographic! We’ll let you debate all the glorious questions that come forth. Why do stories about men get more conventional endorsement? Interesting counterpoint: The Pacific Standard points out that among best-selling authors, men and women are represented equally. What surprises you? What doesn’t?
P.S. For more fun reading data, check out our earlier infographic Sex and Reading!