I thought it would be an interesting project to look deeper into what I read last year. I only had one goal, to read 52 books. How those books were chosen, however, was a hodgepodge of what I was able to check out from the library, requests from friends, curiosity from seeing the book on a shelf or on Goodreads, or a book that had been sitting patiently on my TBR shelf. Sometimes I picked books for a specific reason: Lauren Graham’s book Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between after watching the Gilmore Girls revival. Other times I just wanted to laugh. And other times I was looking to get my life together (cue Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up).
But as “random” as my selections were, I strongly believe that some amount of reading should be intentional. It is so easy to glance at the books beautifully displayed at the front of the bookstore, but what about those tucked away in the aisles? It is no secret that for years, publishing, like many other industries, has disproportionately published authors that are white and male (with the exception of certain genres such as Romance, where authors tend to be female). Let us not forget that J.K. Rowling published under an ambiguous gendered name to mask the fact that she was a woman, because her publishers felt that young boys wouldn’t want to read a story about wizards, witches and magic if it was written by a woman. We have come a long way since then, with more diverse voices being published and promoted each day. This is especially apparent in the Young Adult and Middle School books currently on the market.
But before I can push the industry to do better, I think it’s important to see how diverse and varied my own reading was. So how did I do? I have to admit, I am a bit terrified to find out, but awareness is key. So let the number crunching begin:
ANALYSIS (Graphics and statistics from Goodreads)
MY AVERAGE RATING FOR 2017
POC Authors: 14/51 = 27.5%
Female Authors: 31/51 = 60.78%
Women of Color Authors: 9/51 = 17.65%
Non-American Authors: 11/51 = 21.57%
LGBT+ Authors:** 1/51 = 2%
This was really eye-opening! I seemed to gravitate towards reading more books from women authors. Although part of this could be because I read multiple books from the same female authors. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of my books were from people of color, and of those fourteen books, sixty-four percent (64%), were written by women of color. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out how many non-American authors made the list (from Japan, Korea, Australia, Nigeria, Sweden, South Africa, and beyond).
There are other categories that I could have included, such as authors with disabilities, but these are harder categories to measure as disabilities can be hidden and may not be advertised on an author’s “About Me” page. But it is something to be aware of for future reading.
*Note that I excluded Go Ask Alice because in addition to being a terrible book (my only one-star), the author is “Anonymous.”
**The number of LGBT+ authors may be inaccurate as this information is not as readily available or may not be disclosed by the author. I went with the information that I could find publicly.
Why Reading Diverse Books is Important
I love books because of their ability to transport me into an alternate reality. Whether a book takes place in contemporary Los Angeles, Germany during World War II, Hogwarts, or even the moon, reading is a magical way of seeing the world in someone else’s shoes and from a completely different perspective than your own.
The more diverse authors we have writing books, the more diverse worlds and characters we get to explore. I can’t emphasize how powerful it is for people to see themselves in the pages of the books they read, to have their experiences and identities recognized and celebrated. But diverse authors and books will only succeed with reader support.
Goals for Future Reading
I definitely want to read more books from the LGBT+ community and love the idea of reading books from lesser-read countries.
I want to hear your thoughts! How big of a role does diversity play when you chose a book to read? Any recommendations for books from around the world or LGBT+ books? Let me know in the comments!