Welcome to 2014! The thing about Drunk Movie Mondays is that they prevent me from posting about anything other than movies to watch while wasted at the beginning of the month/year. I maybe did not think that through as much as I should have, but we’re stuck with it now, so we’re just going to talk about the new year now. Actually we’re going to talk about books. Well, I’m going to talk about books. You’re going to read about them, because for some reason you read the things that I write. Thanks for that. Now back to books.
In 2013, I read 45 books. That is maybe the most books I have ever read in a single year, and it exceeded my goal for the year by 5 books, which is pretty great. I was super proud of myself, and congratulated myself accordingly. Yay reading!
It recently occurred to me that having tracked all the books I read last year on Goodreads, for the first time ever I now have the ability to analyze my own reading habits and see what kinds of stories I’m reading, and where my biases are. Here’s what I found:
7 Fairytale/mythology retellings
4 Translated books (2 from Russian, 1 each from Romanian & French)
Authors with more than one book:
Victor Pelevin: 2
Malinda Lo: 2
Mervyn Peake: 3 (series)
Kurt Vonnegut: 2
Well. We can certainly see where my loyalties lie, can’t we? Pretty much where I expected, though I didn’t realize translations were a thing I tended toward. But all is not well in the world of my reading habits–here’re the depressing statistics:
2 Asian (same author for both)
Books by men: 32
Books by women: 12
…yup. In 2013, I read 45 books, clearing out most of my to-read shelf, and only 28% of them were written by women, with only 2 written by not white people. Shameful, I know. You are perfectly justified in judging me. Let all the judging happen. I deserve it.
The thing is, I don’t think my reading habits are unique to me. Literary biases toward men and white people abound, and have been written about by many, many people much better versed than I on the topic, so I’m not going to go into it here. Suffice it to say that, in general, if you don’t make a concerted effort to read books by people other than white dudes, it is really easy to end up reading only books by white dudes, because that’s the only kind of author that popular culture talks about with any regularity. You will only read books that you know about, and white men have the advertising market cornered. Clearly, I have fallen victim to this, as evidenced by my reading in 2013, and I am upset about it.
But the thing about reading habits is that they can be changed. Thus, rather than beating myself up too much for this frankly dire lack of diversity in my reading choices, I’m going to try to fix it in 2014, starting with the gender issue. Last week, I ordered eight books from Powell’s, all written by women. I chose the books I did by surfing ‘best women authors’ lists and polling my friends on Twitter, then compiling a list of ladies whose work looks interesting. From that list, I picked eight books that were on cheap sale and eligible for free shipping. They are:
- The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
- There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
- The Blue Mirror – Kathe Koja
- Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl’s Adventure Upon the High Seas – Tanith Lee
- The Haunting of House Hill – Shirley Jackson
- The Cleft: A Novel – Doris Lessing
- Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link
- The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter
Pretty decent start, I think, but not perfect. If you are a book nerd and familiar with these ladies, you may have noticed that all of them are white, which is because I hadn’t yet considered counting my race reading stats when I bought them. The next round of books, therefore, will all be by people of color, preferably women (I am coming for you, Octavia Butler–as soon as I find a copy of The Wild Seed that isn’t outrageously expensive). I will probably seek out more translations, too, just for good measure. My goal is for my 2014 reading choices to leave white dudes firmly in the minority for once. Reading suggestions more than welcome.
But enough about me. How has your reading choice diversity been doing lately?
P.S. The book I am reading at the moment–my first book of 2014, which I started reading in 2013–is Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman. Already this year is more diverse than the last. Incidentally, I may have to write a post about this book when I am finished with it, because it is, frankly, absurd–in all the best possible ways.