We’re halfway through this year of me trying to both read diverse books and also read all of the (decidedly un-diverse) books getting adapted into movies this year. How have these parallel goals affected my actual reading habits? Well, some interesting results have certainly popped up.
Given that 17 out of 23 of the movie-adapted books this year were written by white men, and all of them were written by white people (no, really), and only one of them was translated from another language (The Prone Gunman is originally written in French), it is perhaps unsurprising that my number of “books from straight white men” has dwarfed last year’s stats already. 9 authors–26% of the total books I’ve read (though James Dashner is represented twice, because I had to read two of his godawful books), which is slightly less than the total number of books I’ve read in translation.
Those stats might easily have become more skewed, if it weren’t for a penchant I’ve developed of seeking out books written by people of color in languages I don’t speak, specifically to avoid my statistics getting too skewed. This is a habit that I think I shall continue, because the result of it has been the discovery of many new and different stories I might not have otherwise sought out. A few favorites from the books-by-POC-in-non-English have included Naguib Mahfouz’s Arabian Nights and Days, Sun-mi Hwang’s The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, and most recently Natsuo Kirino’s The Goddess Chronicle, which I picked up from the library purely because it was sitting next to Kipling when I went to get The Jungle Book and I happened to like the cover. EXCELLENT DECISION as it turns out, because The Goddess Chronicle is both a great book, and also part of the Canongate myths series that I love so much. From what I hear, Kirino’s other works mostly consist of darkly humorous feminist murder noir, so you can bet I’ll be seeking out more of her writing in the future.
Of course, there are areas in my reading that are still woefully undiverse. For example, 44% of the books I’ve read have been written by Americans, and almost 3/4ths of them are originally in English, and a measly 9% are non-fiction (though that is considerably higher than the 0% I read last year, so technically I’m achieving my goal here). And white men still represent the largest single demographic, with black women (6, with two repeats) in second, and white and Asian women tied for third (4).
On a more subjective level, the reading-movie-books challenge has made reading significantly less fun, because it has required me to read A LOT of books I did not enjoy, and only gave me 4 that I did. Glaring at you, Thomas Hardy. For this reason, I don’t think I shall repeat the experiment next year, though I may take a look at the actual reading list before committing either way.
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” -Lemony Snicket