July 27, 2021

New Edinburgh book shop focusing on women’s writing opens this summer


Just some of the titles featured in the popular Rare Birds Book Club (via The Bookseller)

Heartening news from north of the border this week, as a new book shop opens in Edinburgh dedicated to women’s writing.

As reported in Edinburgh News, Rare Bird Books will sell “books by female writers alongside items from women-led businesses”. Including, apparently, book-scented candles!

The shop is a physical extension of the popular subscription-based Rare Birds Book Club, founded in 2017 with the mission of “helping you discover the best of female-authored fiction, delivered to your door monthly.”

Founder Rachel Wood told Edinburgh News:

We’re so thrilled to be opening our first book shop in Edinburgh. We’ve always been deeply interested in women’s writing and we can’t wait to bring what we do online to life in our very own space. We dreamed of a really welcoming space where we could showcase a huge variety of women’s writing across all genres and create a space where book lovers could meet and socialise and that’s what I hope the space will be.

Earlier this month, Wood also announced the Rare Birds Book Club newsletter, Prompt, which will feature writing exercises, ideas, and yes, prompts for budding writers. Each issue will be “hosted” by established female writers, with the first issue featuring the thoughts of bestselling author Maggie O’Farrell.

The shop opens just as the debate surrounding men reading (or rather, not reading) writing by women rears its head again.

Earlier this month, M.A. Sieghart, author of The Authority Gap: Why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it (Doubleday), wrote about the phenomenon in The Guardian, revealing some pretty damning stats (via Nielsen Book Research) in the process:

For the top 10 bestselling female authors (who include Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood, as well as Danielle Steel and Jojo Moyes), only 19% of their readers are men and 81%, women. But for the top 10 bestselling male authors (who include Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien, as well as Lee Child and Stephen King), the split is much more even: 55% men and 45% women… In other words, women are prepared to read books by men, but many fewer men are prepared to read books by women.

What’s to be done about this? Well, asking men to read Sieghart’s book might be a start—but Rare Bird Books is surely a place to further and deepen that understanding. We salute them.

Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.