I’m here to say goodbye to Stephen King.

Not that he’s going anywhere. Indeed, I imagine he’s at his desk even now, devising a fiendish fate for some schmuck unlucky enough to be a character in a Stephen King novel.

But whatever that fate may be, I will know nothing about it — not this year, at least. I will be similarly ignorant of whatever legal potboiler John Grisham has in the pipeline or whatever magisterial new history David McCullough publishes next. The acclaimed new novels by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Colson Whitehead? They will also have to wait until 2021.

This, you see, is the Year of Reading Women.

No, that’s not an official calendar designation. Rather, it’s an unofficial columnist designation, springing from a piece I did last summer. I spoke of perusing my book diary and discovering to my chagrin that it contained almost no female authors. In 2016, for instance, I read or listened to 46 books. Exactly one — Tananarive Due’s “Ghost Summer Stories” — was by a woman.

Without realizing it, I had been filtering female authors out of my reading list. It was a jolting discovery for an avowed feminist, but it reminded me how insidious biases can be. And that, for as much as people love to proclaim their absolute lack of prejudice, what they usually mean is that they do not go around thinking mean thoughts about racial, religious or gender Others. Which is well and fine, except that our most powerful and consequential prejudices tend to be the ones we carry without even knowing we do. They lead us to assumptions we make without realizing we’ve made them, actions we take without quite knowing why.

So it’s not enough to harbor no conscious bias. Rather, it’s incumbent upon good people also to be vigilant and intentional in dealing with biases they carry below the level of conscious awareness.

The Year of Reading Women is me, being intentional. From now till Dec. 31, with the exception of those I might need in researching a column or novel, every book I read or listen to will be by a female author.

You, dear reader of whichever gender, are welcome to read and listen along. I’ll be posting capsule reviews through the year and hope you’ll share your thoughts as well. The web page that will host all this is still under construction, but you’ll find the link in a future column as well as on my page at MiamiHerald.com. I’ll also post links on Facebook and Twitter (#TheYearOfReadingWomen).

When I wrote that first column I didn’t expect much response, books being the unsexy subject they are. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be my biggest column of the year. I’m still snowed under by reader recommendations and have resigned myself that I’ll never reach the bottom of the pile. But I thank all of you who suggested a name or title to me. Most of this year’s reading will be drawn from your lists. We begin with Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Linda Castillo’s “Sworn to Silence.”

I confess to some mild trepidation. Metaphorically speaking, at least, Stephen King is a friend of long standing. It’s going to feel strange going a year without him, Walter Mosley or Greg Iles.

However, I need to heed my own advice. How many times have I argued that rooting out ingrained biases requires a willingness to venture beyond your comfort zones? In getting out of your comfort zones, you expand them, a process that is ultimately less about abandoning old friends than discovering new ones. So yes, today’s the day I say goodbye to Stephen King.

It’s also the day I say hello to Jodi Picoult.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

(10) comments

des21

[yawn] Good for you Lenny. Here's an idea: read what you enjoy.[ohmy]

threecents

If 45 of the last 46 books you read were from male authors, then you probably prefer to read male authors. It is not as though there are not a lot of books out there written by female authors.

collinsm65

I honestly couldn't care less if a book were written by male or female. It's good or it isn't. Why not just use some white-out (have a friend apply) on the name and then read the book and judge it for its content alone rather than the gender who created it? Stephen King is rather boring anyway and uber-predictable. Maybe you'd surprise yourself as it seems you're setting yourself up for expectations that one gender's books are better or not than any other.

DickD

Why would anyone limit their reading to any gender. What does gender have to do with it.

bosco

I agree, Dick. By consciously opting to read only books by women, the columnist is practicing the prejudice that he is supposedly opposed to. I read for the genres that I enjoy, not for the sex of the author.

Dwasserba

If you have to ask....

sevenstones1000

I know! Why were there zero or no women authors on the traditional Western canon that I studied as an English Major? Oh yeah, Jane Austen as a sop.

Women authors have never had a level playing field. Open your mind a little.

threecents

My favorite authors from college English classes: Shirley Jackson, Joy Williams, Flannery O'Conner, and Ilse Aichinger. Hmmm, maybe that says something about me.

jsklinelga

Not a bad idea. No more Leonard Pitts.It would be only fair that he stop writing columns allowing space for more women.

threecents

Too funny. It reminds me of Gingrich-era Republicans uniformly demanding term limits and then repeatedly running for re-election.

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