The Week in Women: literary villains, a historic librarian and a gender-confused book syllabus

Mara Wilson in "Matilda." A UK poll ranked Miss Trunchbull from "Matilda" among the top ten most evil movie villains.

Is there anything better than a good book? Their engrossing plots! Their papery smell! Their convenient portability … if you own a tablet! It was a very literary week, with novels, libraries, and authors cropping up all over the headlines. Let’s take a look back.

World Book Day is just around the corner and things are looking good for literature’s leading ladies. A U.K. poll asked 7,000 readers to name their “favorite heroes/heroines” and the “most evil villains.” Harry Potter and his nemesis Lord Voldemort took the top spot in both categories (surprising no one), but the majority of characters named were female. Six out of 10 heroes were women including The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, and Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. Seven of the top 10 villains were female, among them Miss Trunchbull from Matilda. Voldemort may be scary, but at least he didn’t forever ruin chocolate cake.

Dr. Carla Hayden, the current head of Baltimore’s library system, was tapped by President Obama to become the newest Librarian of Congress this week. She is the 14th in a long line of very smart people to hold the position, but the first woman and first African American. The official seat has been empty since September. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Hayden is sworn in, because there are 160 million items in the Library, just waiting to be digitized.

A memoir by Canada’s most infamous serial killer was pulled from the online shelves of Amazon after a petition of more than 50,000 signatures was amassed hours after its release. Robert Pickton is believed to have killed 49 women in gruesome murders on his farm outside Vancouver; many of his victims were prostitutes or drug addicts whom he picked up in the city’s red light district. In Pickton: In His Own Words, the convicted killer claims he is innocent and was set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. While writing the book, Pickton seems to have conveniently forgotten that he made a boastful confession to an undercover officer after his arrest.

On Thursday, TIME Magazine published a list of the “100 most-read female authors” on college campuses — which included 99 women and one man. British author Evelyn Waugh, author of Brideshead Revisited and definitely a dude, ended up on the list, prompting the magazine to issue a correction. If that weren’t sufficiently depressing, the top 17 of authors assigned on college syllabi are all male, led by the likes of William Shakespeare, Plato, Freud, and George Eliot. SEE WHAT WE DID THERE?

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