How and why you should diversify your reading list!

Cozy up to a new book this Thanksgiving weekend. Photo by Alex Geerts on Unsplash.

As we gear up for a long Thanksgiving weekend, in addition to rest and relaxation (always a must!), we recommend picking up a good book- maybe one that wouldn’t ordinarily appear on your reading list.

Why?

Maybe you’re not much of a reader, and would like to start reading for fun (not just for classes). Maybe you’re interested in a particular topic. That’s great! Take this opportunity to start. See if you can pick up a book by an author from a community other than your own.

Or maybe you already read for fun. Maybe you read a wide range of books, from fiction to biographies. That’s diverse, right?

Well…yes and no. While you might read different genres of books, it’s important to ask yourself: “who’s writing what I read?” Have you picked up a book lately that was written by someone outside your community, race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity? If not, this is a great opportunity to do so!

Reading diversely means seeking out books that are written and/or illustrated by marginalized writers. It means reading stories that use culture in various ways – for example, maybe the main character is a marginalized person, but their identity is not the focus of the plot. Or, perhaps cultural influence helps to set the scene of a story. There’s no “one approach” to establish what a diverse book is. “Diverse books” simply means books that highlight experiences not typically represented in literature or the media.

Why is it important to read diversely?

Diversifying representation in our books is strongly associated with positive outcomes such as breaking down negative stereotypes, increasing opportunities to self-identify with characters, and improving our empathy for others. In addition, reading diverse books provide readers with a safe space to challenge our own assumptions about different cultures while growing our own awareness and understanding, without burdening those from marginalized communities whom we may know with our well-intentioned questions.

Diversifying your reading also helps to support marginalized authors and illustrators. Currently, most major publishing houses are dominated by white writers. This is problematic, because the people “behind the book scenes” act as gatekeepers, determining which voices are amplified and which are not. In a study done by the New York Times in 2018, only 11% of the books in their sample were written by people of colour. The infographic below illustrates data collected from the 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey showing that diversity in publishing is lacking.

These charts show the the demographics of the publishing industry circa 2019.

One thing we can do to help change these results is to diversify our reading lists! Here’s how to start:

Search by Genre 

Start with what you know and love.

If you’re just beginning to read for fun, think about what interests you, and look for a book on that topic.

If you’re already a reader, diversifying your reading list doesn’t mean forgetting about the books you already know and love! Use your favourite genres to help you find books by marginalized writers. You can use the following resources to help you search:

  • Connect with Research Help at the Patrick Power Library – we love chatting about novels and helping your search for your next favourite read!
  • Browse the Halifax Public Libraries’ website for curated reading lists and recommendations.
  • Browse GoodReads for lists – use terms like ‘author of colour’ in the search box to find reading lists such as the 2019 Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy books. 
  • We Need Diverse Books is a great grassroots organization specializing in helping people like you find diverse books that you will love. Check out their list of sites that offer recommendations for diverse titles here.

Search for Authors 

Next, you can search for popular and diverse authors.

You can do this by using search terms like ‘popular BIPOC’ or ‘popular LGBTQ’ or ‘popular disabled’ authors. These search terms will lead you to several lists of authors and books that you can explore!

You can use the #OwnVoice when searching for diverse books and authors. The #OwnVoice is used to tag books where under-represented authors have written from their perspective to share their own experiences. Using #OwnVoice to guide your search can help diversify your reading list by finding authentic stories with true representation.

Here are a few #OwnVoice books from the Patrick Power Library:

  1. There there by Tommy Orange
  2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  4. Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Search for Resources 

One of the best ways to learn about and stay up to date on the latest diverse reads is by following individuals and organizations that advocate for diversity. We recommend researching online book clubs, diverse book blogs, or bookstagramers that suit your interests!

Although diversifying your reading list helps to improve your perspective of other identities and cultures, keep in mind that teaching readers is not these books’ sole (or even main) purpose. Every book tells a unique story, and engaging with that story is so much of the beauty of reading widely!

Ultimately, the best reason to diversify your reading list is to have more fun. Books are opportunities to explore the world through the eyes of someone whose life experience is vastly different than our own, and to learn about different identities, cultures, and worldviews. Living and learning through books can make life more interesting, fun, and exciting, and make us all more empathetic, compassionate, and understanding humans in the process.

Do you have a book recommendation, or more tips for diversifying your reading list? Please let us know in the comments!

Also, don’t forget that if you live in Halifax, you’re eligible for a FREE library card through Halifax Public Libraries, where you can find all kinds of books in all kinds of formats- so if reading a physical book isn’t your jam, try an ebook, an audiobook, or even try diversifying your playlist or movie watching!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: