Books, Life Update

Reading Diversity 2014: In Review

Around New Years last year, I realized my use of goodreads meant that I could analyze my reading habits in more detail than ever before. I was disappointed in my own lack of diversity in reading choices, and for 2014 made a resolution to be better about seeking out and reading works by women and people of color. Now that 2015 is looming, it’s time for a check-in with that project, as well as some new reading goals for 2015.

In 2014, I read 61 books, beating my initial goal of 45 by…a large margin. Of those 61 books, only 19 were written by men. That’s 31%, versus 71% last year. A vast improvement, rendered far less vast than it might otherwise have been by my decision to read all those movie books. As it turns out, Hollywood’s diversity in reading habits is just as dismal as my own use to be.

By far the largest demographic I read books from was white women, with 22 books, making up 36% of my books. Second place goes to black women, with 14 books, just shy of 23%, followed by white men at 12 books/20%. Next largest category is books in translation, at 16%, with Spanish and Japanese tied for most frequently read.

The most books by a single author goes to my fav Helen Oyeyemi, with all 5 of her books (I’d have read more if more existed). Second place is a five-way tie between Octavia Butler (Earthseed series), Veronica Roth (first two Divergent books), Neil Gaiman (first two Sandman volumes), Nnedi Okorafor, and P.D. James, unless you count 1Q84‘s three parts as separate books, in which case Murakami comes in second.

For genre, scifi is still handily winning, with 28%. Magical realism, young adult, and fantasy trail are not far behind, and at the back of the pack we have action/adventure, thriller, and romance. Non-fiction doesn’t even make the list, which is actually a little disappointing. I should read something educational on occasion.

On a subjective level, this has been one of my favorite reading years ever, and I think that can be attributed to the wider variety of reading that a quest for diversity has forced me into. Before I started actively seeking out non-straight/white/male authors, I was kind of bored with reading, often going weeks at a time without reading anything at all. When I started reading books from other types of authors, suddenly I was finding stories I couldn’t predict, that weren’t trite and boring, and instead challenged my thinking and took me in new directions. Basically, it made reading fun again. My favorite book I read this year was Dubravka Ugresic’s Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, but Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox and Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday aren’t far behind. My least favorite was Fernando Pessoa’s the Book of Disquiet, which I would like to never acknowledge again.

So where do I go from here? Well, there is still room for improvement when it comes to diversity. 54% of the books I read were still by white authors, and non-black POC are still sadly under-represented. With the movie-book quest putting me firmly back in straight/white/male author territory (thanks, Hollywood), I’ll have to do a lot of outside reading for balance, but my rough goals are as follows:

1. Keep white authors below 33%, and female authors at or above 50%

2. Aim for at least 25% books in translation

3. Read more non-fiction

What kind of books did you get into this year? Have anyone to recommend toward my new goals?

Diversely yours,
M.M. Jordahl

“Many people, myself included, feel better at the mere sight of a book.” -Jane Smiley

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