Female fiction writers in Israel outnumbered male fiction writers for the first time, according to a survey of all 7,344 books published in Israel in 2021.

Female authors accounted for 52% of all publications in the “prose and literature” section, which includes novels, plays and poetry.

That compares with 42% the last time a similar breakdown was carried out, in 2017.

Men still dominate overwhelmingly in all areas of nonfiction, biographies and handbooks, according to the National Library of Israel’s (NLI) annual Book Report. Male authors wrote 94% of published Judaica and 79% of popular science and medicine.

Direct year-on-year gender comparisons are hard to make, said the NLI, but there was a clear “upwards trend of female participation in writing across a variety of genres” and 2021 is the first year when women fiction authors have outnumbered men.

The report’s authors acknowledged that with so many gender-neutral names in Israel it was a challenge to provide an accurate male/female split.

However, they said that based on their analysis of the majority of published works across all genres, they calculated that 62% were authored by men and 38% by women.

Graph courtesy of National Library of Israel

They also said some texts – such as the Talmud, Bible, festschriften (writings published in honor of a scholar) or corporate publications – didn’t have a specific individual author.

Women authors remain dominant in some areas. They wrote 64% of books for children and young adults, and 58% of schoolbooks.

Overall, the number of books printed in 2021 (not including 982 ebooks) was up almost 12% over Covid-hit 2020. In 2018, the figure hit a record high of 8,571.

The report, published ahead of Hebrew Book Week (June 15-25), also shows that 72% of the 447 biographies and autobiographies published last year were about men, and only 28% about women. More and more biographies are being published, especially about non-public figures.

The vast majority, over 91%, were released in Hebrew, 4.8% in English; 2.2% in Arabic, 0.6% in Russian and 1% in other languages.

There were 381 instructional books published, most of them dedicated to self-empowerment, relationships and family life, as well as methods for earning money, and 74 dealing directly with the Covid pandemic.

Fewer books were published in the Israeli society and history category, as government bodies increasingly opt for online rather than print. Only 165 Arabic books were published, down from 214 in 2020. The decline is probably due to a shift toward digital publishing.

The Legal Deposit Law requires anyone who publishes more than 50 copies of a book to provide two copies to the National Library in Jerusalem, which is currently building a new campus due to open next year.