What is Kwerey.com for?

Kwerey.com is a whole new kind of library catalogue: it's a database of books that you can search not just by their titles and authors, but by what's on the inside.

Readers of genre fiction will have noticed some trends in their genres of choice: science fiction has grizzled space marines, fantasy has the bastard sons of kings finding their birthright, romance novels have a definite tendency towards straight romance between manly men and dainty ladies, and so on. After a while, those tropes get old, so when you search the Kwerey catalogue, you can ask the site to only display results where the main character is a woman, or where they're bisexual, or where they're not white. It's all about signal-to-noise ratio: bookworms like me have read a lot of books about straight white men by the time we get to fifteen: it's time for a bit of variety.

This is also a database of books by women. As an undergrad doing a traditional Literature degree at a traditional university, almost all the books were by men. Somewhere between 80% and 90% of the supplementary reading I did was on books by men. I wrote a dissertation on women's writing during the Second World War, and more than half of the background reading and context and criticism my supervisor suggested to me for that specifically woman-centric project was by men.

The core idea for the site was born from that. Here it is: it's harder to find books by women.

In the eyes of critics, writing by women is writing about women, and writing by men is about The Human Condition. Women are less visible, they're less likely to be recommended, they're not as frequently reviewed or nominated for awards. Last year I made an active choice to only buy books by women, but when I looked at my bookshelves at the end of the year, I still had nearly twice as many novels by men, and only one of the non-fiction books on my shelf was written by a woman. Finding books by women is hard - the default gender balance on our bookshelves is so far off kilter it'll take a big push on the other side to balance it back out.

I can't provide that on my own, but I can make a start on it. And if you'd like to come help, you're very welcome. Join up here and tell us about authors we haven't heard of, add some books to the catalogue and write a recommendation or two. Together, we'll find some great writing.