Tis the season for looking back at the previous 365 days and taking stock. The natural evolution is to use that information to introduce goals, but since I sort of already outlined my reading goals (hey, hey, Whisks & Words 2015 Reading Challenge), this is really just a fun time to look back at my reading year.
In 2014, I joined the team of contributors at Book Riot, a fantastic online magazine about books and book culture. And y’all, my reading life exploded. Necessarily. And though I was nervous going in – I worried that I wasn’t smart enough or well-read enough to hack it at Book Riot, where everyone is SERIOUSLY well-read and smart – I’ve found the most wonderful family of writers there, a marvelously eclectic group who challenge me to read widely and differently.
And most of all, they challenge me to pay attention to what I read. In years past, I was doing good just to read. Immediately after finishing graduate school, I was lucky to read a book a month. In those days, attention to what I was reading was just beyond me. But now, I have a reading life that not only allows me to consider the what, but also begins to necessitate it, as a good reading citizen. I want to pay attention to the breakdown of authors – gender, sexual orientation, race, class – and also the subject matter of my books.
Looking back at the year, I did pretty well on the gender breakdown. Out of 48 books read this year, I actually skewed in a big way towards reading books by women.
I didn’t realize the trend until well into the fall, but I was happy about it. I read what I enjoyed, what I felt drawn towards, and by and large, those were books by women.
I didn’t start out the year with a concrete goal of reading diversely, and that’s something I want to improve upon next year. The basic truth is that books by and about people of color are marketed differently, making it harder to encounter them the way you might encounter books by white authors. This is a problem in publishing, and luckily, the shift is coming, which is good news for readers. This year, out of 48 books, I managed to read 11 by POC.
I had an even more dismal showing of books by LGBT authors, something I also want to do better with.
Why pay attention to all of this? Why worry about diversity in reading? Why chart it with tables and spreadsheets (besides the fact that it makes the chart-and-graph-loving part of myself super happy)? Imagine that for your whole life, the only cheese you ate was Kraft Singles. That orange processed cheese product was the only thing you knew of cheese. People talked about Brie and Jarlsberg and goat cheese and gorgonzola, and you could only think of clammy plastic squares of cheese product. That’s lack of diversity in your cheese life.
I don’t want a Kraft Singles reading life. Even when it’s hard, even when I read things that make me uncomfortable or that scare me, that make me miss my wife when she’s gone or that hit into the soft painful spots in my heart without my expecting it – the quirky and the difficult, the romantic and the historical, it all matters, and it’s all important, because I’m hungry for story. And I want so much more than Kraft Singles.
I published a list of my reading goals for 2015, and I’ll be updating monthly with My Reading Month, both to share my progress with the Reading Challenge but also to keep you posted on other books I’m reading. But for now, I want to share My Reading Year: 2014, in full, which you’ll find by following the link.
And until January’s Reading Month, happy reading, and a happy, sparkly, tremendous new year!