21st Century Literature discussion

Question of the Week > How Diverse Is Your Reading? (8/5/18)

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message 1: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod
Take a look at your 2018 reads so far (or your 2017 reading year). How does it break down by gender, nationality, genre, language, etc.? Is it as diverse as you'd like it to be? Is diversity something you value in your personal reading?

message 2: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2715 comments Mod
The only one of these that I monitor is gender, and because I have an alternation policy, the book counts are almost level (sadly my spreadsheet also measures page counts for each and the male-authored books are longer, so I have yet to achieve true parity).

I don't have a quick way to measure any of the other categories, but I read very little that isn't literary fiction, and the remainder are mostly factual. I think the nationality spread is quite good, but that is a very tricky one, for example where do you put Aminatta Forna (half-Scottish, half-Sierra Leone and currently living in America)? I suspect the most over-represented nation (by population) is the Republic of Ireland, and the most under-represented can only be China.

message 3: by Neil (last edited Aug 06, 2018 07:29AM) (new)

Neil | 309 comments Like Hugh, I only track gender diversity. Unlike Hugh, I don't have a policy to attempt parity. It currently sits at 60/40 in favour of male authors for my 2018 reading. I'm not particularly concerned to get it to 50/50 - I read the books I am attracted to without thinking about the author's gender. This year's stats are slightly skewed by the fact that I went on a bit of a Don DeLillo re-readathon and also finished off a read through of the full George Smiley collection: projects like that can tip the balance in one direction or another.

Reading the Man Booker International long list automatically increases the geographic diversity, especially as it normally means discovering a few other translated books I want to read.

message 4: by lark (last edited Aug 06, 2018 07:40AM) (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments Ever since I eliminated my "books by women" shelf and replaced it with a "male-identified authors" shelf I had the feeling the percentage of books I was reading by women was going up, and to my surprise this year it's 75% women. I always thought I was 50-50 and it was always very much skewed toward men, until I did this strangely effective psychological trick on myself.

I'm not consciously trying to be inclusive but I just noticed I've read exactly one book by a white male American, and it was yesterday: The Bad Seed by William March. I in the process of reading The Overstory so Richard Powers will be #2.

message 5: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 279 comments I love this question! It made me check, and also think about how/if I want to make special efforts to include more diversity in my reading.

A few years ago I made a conscious attempt to read mostly women, and also to read people of color. After a few months, one book led to another and I didn't have to monitor this at all. For 2018, I have about two thirds women authors, and about one third people of color. My goal is to achieve some balance when looking at all the books I've read over a lifetime, but that's gonna take a while.

What I really want to work on is adding more authors from non-English speaking countries, and literature in translation. I was sad to see that only three out of my 45 books this year were in this category! Definitely needs work.

I'm not as interested in diversifying my genre reading, but I may look at that at some point too.

message 6: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2715 comments Mod
Just done a quick count and I think I have 13 "people of colour" from 81 books. Not brilliant but not as low as I was expecting.

message 7: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Marc,
I gave this a shot for 2018 thru July 31.
First, I think my reading is relatively diverse, but I'm trying to increase the classics and the translated books. Second, classics includes literary classics, sci fi classics, and even one "thriller" classic. Third, I would have liked to have a column for authors of color, but just not easily ascertainable from my list. Where I read more than one book by an author, I tried not to double count authors in the gender and nationality columns. I had to guess on nationality and my list only includes those who are not US writers (I did not try to ascertain nationality of US-based authors). So for 2018 through July, here's the tally:

Women: 28
Male: 64
Irish: 3
UK: 7
African: 2
Canadian: 2
Other 11
Translated: 11
Sci Fi/Fantasy: 20
Thriller: 27
Historical Fiction (that is not literary): 5
Literary: 33
Classic: 12
None of the Above: 4
Non-fiction: 12

And finally, in the 7 months reviewed, I read 2 books by six different authors. The only repeated authors were:
Stephen King
C.J. Cherryh
Richard Powers
James Baldwin
John Connolly
Dan Brown

I thought the male/female ratio would have been more balanced, but it seems there were only 2 female sci fi authors and 2 or 3 female thriller authors. Many of the thrillers were audible daily deals and underwhelming in quality, but inexpensive and the amount of walking and biking I am currently doing means a lot of audio books (55 of the 131 books I've read).

message 8: by Robert (last edited Aug 06, 2018 08:31AM) (new)

Robert | 437 comments This is something I am not really conscious about as my concern is if I like the book. Gender-wise, usually female authors outnumber the male ones but this year it's so so cause out of the 124 books I read so far 50 were female authors but this is because I'm reading a lot of comics, which is male dominated, although a lot of the pioneering artists during the golden age were women.

message 9: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod
Your "psychological trick" is kind of genius, Lark! It's funny how a such a simple change in perspective like that can be so illuminating.

I suspect most of us read in English, although I know we've got a few bi- or multi-lingual members. I like to mix it up in terms of translations, etc., but like Hugh said, it's hard to define nationality or its impact upon an author. I don't give this too much thought beyond making sure I don't only read American authors and I enjoy being exposed to the different writing styles and cultures that different countries offer.

I don't actively track these sorts of things, but in looking over my reading for this year, it looks like there's 13 women, 27 men, and 7 mixed, although I think my graphic novel selections skew heavily toward men. I think only 3 of these are translations.

message 10: by Lily (last edited Aug 06, 2018 09:46AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments I used to say that I read "to prove myself wrong." That is a "diversity" that I want to try to return to -- in a time when I feel beleaguered in my beliefs, I am probably leaning my reading towards shoring up those beliefs. These days, so much of my reading is Internet articles, far more than books. I haven't even begun to track (measure) the diversity of my selections. My 25+ year book club has always made it a point to include women writers and writers of color -- most of the latter American and "black." Right now, my life is full of unfinished books. (Even the ones I've read, I've not reviewed, so haven't placed them among current reads.) Goodreads groups help me balance(?) between classics and current literature. Balance between genres? No... So many parameters for diversity; suspect we have touched on only a few, even among our comments here.

message 11: by Doug (last edited Aug 06, 2018 08:54PM) (new)

Doug Until this question came up, I never really asked myself how diverse my reading is - or, indeed, chose books to achieve gender/racial/country of origin parity. In looking over my 2018 reading, of the 160 I've read so far, the breakdown is 102 men to 58 women, with 90 by American authors and 70 foreign. Of those foreign, most of the authors are from the UK/Ireland, but also have a smattering from Mexico, S. America, India, Korea, France, etc. 24 are by identified POC, although there are maybe more, since I don't really pay attention to that either. 39 have LGBTQ content (not necessarily BY LGBTQ authors) . Since theatre is my field, about 50% of my reading is play scripts and probably 40% of the rest would fall under the general rubric of 'lit fic'. I don't generally dabble in genre fiction or graphic novels or poetry, unless they get nominated for major awards :-)

message 12: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Hobson | 77 comments This is an interesting question, because it makes me look at my reading in a different way.
So far this year I have read 42 books and I discovered 22 were by male writers and 20 by female. An unconscious achievement of parity. Because I have been doing more reviewing this year for a website called NZBooklovers, my geographical spread has been more oriented to New Zealand than normal. Country of origin looks something like this:
17 New Zealand
7 UK
5 Australia
4 Norway
3 Sweden
1 Canada
I am now conscious that there is nothing from South America, Africa or much of Asia, which is unusual for my reading. Something I might now be more conscious of between now and the end of the year.
7 of the works are translations, 6 are thrillers and 4 are books of poetry. I have returned to poetry after a few years break, and am enjoying the different use of language and also the challenge of leading a monthly poetry group.
Most of what I have read are recent releases, but of the others one is from the very early twentieth century, two from the 1950s, and one each from the 60s and 70s. In other words very few classics. So far ther are only two collections of short stories, which is again unusual, but perhaps also indicative of how much collections of stories have fallen out of favour with publishers.

message 13: by Laurie (new)

Laurie I have a spreadsheet where I log my books and it tracks several categories such as gender, author and/or main character of color, LGBTQ author, translated book, etc. The spreadsheet makes quick work of this type of question. It isn't something I used to care about, but I started making more of an effort to be more diverse in these areas a couple of years ago after several years of focusing on classics and, hence, mostly white male authors.

My results are for the 53 books so far:
63% women authors
52% authors of color
25% translated
28% of the authors from outside the US and western Europe

message 14: by Hugh (last edited Aug 08, 2018 04:46AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2715 comments Mod
I have just had a go at adding a few columns to my list of the year in an attempt to answer this question, but I can't do LGBTQ because that would require too much research.
So of the 82 books so far:
women - 41
people of colour - 16 (I included Michael Ondaatje, but I am not not 100% sure about him)
translated - 16 (4 Spanish 3 French 2 German, 2 Swedish 1 Korean, 1 Taiwanese 1 Polish 1 Arabic? 1 Albanian)
nationalities (some counted more than once) - 36 UK 10 USA 7 Ireland 4 Canada 4 South Africa 3 India 3 France 2 Argentina 2 Austria 2 Sweden
continents (some counted more than once): Europe 54 North America 14 Asia 7 Africa 7 South America 3 Australasia 1

message 15: by Clarke (last edited Aug 07, 2018 09:09AM) (new)

Clarke Owens | 121 comments This question, "How Diverse Is Your Reading?" is interesting because of the further questions it raises about the nature and value of "diversity". As defined here (break it down by race, gender, etc.) the concept of diversity seems somewhat limited. There are all sorts of diversity that might create a richer, more complete diversity than simply breaking it down by race, gender, etc., and at the same time there are definitely moments when one feels the need for precisely this type of divergence from what may have become one's old, worn reading selection habits. (Have I read enough African American lit.???) The question causes me to examine how and when the perceived need for "diversity" kicks in, or how it is designedly inhibited at times, for example, in the interest of depth. In the past, I have often felt a tension between a strong desire to read fully across the historical eras, and my earlier academic training to focus on certain nationalities and eras. I recall that when I went to graduate school I had to stop reading the Greek and Roman classics which were then fascinating me, and switch to the great works of English and American lit, in order to fulfill my requirements. Another thing I've noticed among the Goodreads community is that many of you read highly multicultural or comparative lit authors (Japanese, Indian, etc.) and I have often avoided these authors for a couple of specific reasons: while it is interesting to learn of other cultures, I have no way of knowing, when I read them, how accurate they are. I have a fondness for American authors (of any nationality) because I know American culture and can assess the understanding and "relate" to it. There is the question of authority. If we want a picture of 19th C. London, we go to Dickens, for the American South of early 20th C, to Faulkner, etc. I want an author who knows what he's talking about. On the other hand, I'm not averse to reading somebody like Burroughs, who is nothing like me--a gay drug addict with peculiar thoughts (him). The interesting thought for me is when and why do we seek diversity, and how do we seek it?

message 16: by Lily (last edited Aug 07, 2018 10:38AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments @15 Clarke wrote: "The interesting thought for me is when and why do we seek diversity, and how do we seek it? .."

Thx for this post, Clarke. For me, part of it is how to challenge one's values versus when/how to test and confirm them. "Challenging," of course, often includes discovering those (worthwhile?) values one has not even or only minimally considered.

message 17: by lark (last edited Aug 07, 2018 10:44AM) (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments Lily wrote: "Thx for this post, Clarke. For me, part of it is how to challenge one's values versus when/how to test and confirm them...."

I've been thinking about this from the writer's perspective lately too, thinking about how and when "diverse" authors choose their audience.

At some point authors need to ask themselves whether their goal is to seek out readers from "diversities" other than their own, or if they want to speak primarily to the "diversity" to which they belong.

For example: (East) Indian writers, who are likely to be at least bilingual, have a choice in the beginning whether to write in English or in a language native to India. If they choose English they're choosing a colonial artifact, and it will influence what they write. Some writers choose not to.

And if they do choose English, they still need to decide whether to write first to an Indian audience, or to a global one, where most readers will have only a vague idea of what India is like, and where writers will need to spend a lot of time explaining things obvious to Indians.

And all these decisions filter what we read, even if we're consciously trying to read more diversely.

message 18: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod
In your view, what other "richer, more complete" ways might we look at diversity, Clarke? Not at all disagreeing with you and appreciate you opening up the discussion more broadly. I don't think "diversity" should be taken as something that inherently has value.

Not sure I ever look to fiction for an "authoritative" take on any place or time. 'Tis a fascinating vantage point.

message 19: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Recently I've read that someone I should remember, but don't said history is better told through fiction than non-fiction writing. I think that might also hold true for culture. But that brings to mind the controversy about authors/poets using a voice that is not theirs, e.g., the situation discussed in the NY Times opinion piece: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/op....

message 20: by Whitney (last edited Aug 07, 2018 12:17PM) (new)

Whitney | 2160 comments Mod
I try to be more diverse in my reading, but sadly the men still outnumber the women, and the white Americans are still out in front. I do see a lot of value in seeking out diverse books. We're all products of our culture to some extent, and my culture has long valued and promoted white, male, creators over others. As one writer put it, "better conscious inclusion than the same old unconscious exclusion." And, really, don't most of us value reading to expand our world, rather than to solidify the walls that currently exist?

Here is my 2018 list of failure:
- 35 books
- 22 male identified, 12 female, 1 mixed anthology (female editor)
- 10 countries: 1 Albania, 1 Canada, 1 Ghana, 1 Japan, 2 Nigeria, 1 Roman, 1 Russian, 6 U.K, 20 US, 1 Vietnam. Of the U.S. authors, 5 I know of identify as non-white.
- As a bonus, 12 were audiobooks, 6 were non-fiction, 3 were graphic novels.

What doesn't get represented here is all the short stories I read or listen to online. There are over 100 so far this year, so digging through them all for specific identities is too much work for me. But many of my sources make an effort to be more inclusive, so it's a more diverse list than the above.

message 21: by Doug (last edited Nov 13, 2018 04:28PM) (new)

Doug Re: Clarke's comments - absolutely agree, and while I have in the past been MUCH more diverse as far as eras go (I had periods of getting hooked on both Gothic and Victorian sensational writing), these days the vast majority of my reading is contemporary works. I need to get back to incorporating more 'classic' lit.

Re: Lark's comments - I've read quite a bit of Indian writing, both in translation and in English, geared towards both a native and a more global audience - and don't really see much separating them - but perhaps that is because I carry my own cultural baggage towards each?

message 22: by Clarke (last edited Aug 07, 2018 03:27PM) (new)

Clarke Owens | 121 comments Marc wrote: "In your view, what other "richer, more complete" ways might we look at diversity, Clarke? Not at all disagreeing with you and appreciate you opening up the discussion more broadly. I don't think "d..."

I think Lily begins to hit on it, above. I don't mean to be glib or dismissive, but I think diversity can be measured as much by the impact of our reading as by a head count of the nationality of the author. Again, it's a question of depth as well as statistical breadth. For example, I can remember reading 8 or 9 books by Virginia Woolf in a short span of time, and some letters, and feeling that my viewpoint had definitely been broadened and made more comprehensive than it had been. Then again, the number of books does not determine it, because you can read a single book and have this reaction. The Collected Poems of Anne Sexton affects me this way. So does the slave narrative of Harriet Jacobs. On the other hand, I might have chosen to read one book by an Egyptian author, one by a Russian, one by lesbian, and not necessarily have been changed to the same degree. But yes, there are times when you want to read an author solely out of curiosity as to the cultural differences they might expose you to.

Just to add, on the point of authority. Here's what I mean: I love Dostoevsky and have read all his major works, short and long. But I have no way to recognize a Russian character or cultural moment, whereas I can recognize certain Americans in Twain (Judith Loftus!) and Faulkner, because I, too, am American and have seen versions of those people and cultural habits, etc.

message 23: by lark (last edited Aug 07, 2018 03:35PM) (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments Doug wrote: "Re; Lark's comments - I've read quite a bit of Indian writing, both in translation and in English, geared towards both a native and a more global audience - and don't really see much separating them - but perhaps that is because I carry my own cultural baggage towards each? ..."

Doug I'm writing random thoughts more than bona fide opinions but it does seem to me that writing in English is for some writers a conscious choice that opens some doors and closes others, and also, that even if you write in your native language you have a choice as a writer these days whether you want to appeal to a global audience or to your home audience.

Here's a NYRB article with some ideas along these lines


So I think this adds another layer of weirdness in anyone's quest to be a well-read inclusive reader...that the authors that reach an English-speaking audience are to some extent groomed to be writing things we will understand and like.

I can think of exceptions right away of course--Open Letter books seem to be delightfully not written with me in mind (I love them but they are a challenge and definitely make me feel like I'm stretching my diversity muscles)

message 24: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod
I don't think you're being glib or dismissive. I'd hoped this thread would cause people to define "diversity" for themselves and consider whether that was something they even valued when making reading selections. If you had asked me before this thread whether 2018 had been what I would consider a "diverse" reading year, I would have said YES! After looking at what I've read, it doesn't seem very diverse by almost any measurement (almost everything I've read except for maybe 2 selections was published after 1950 with most hovering right around the millennium; not too many translations; not even one that I feel challenged my worldview or politics per se). Which is not to say I haven't been inspired, learned a lot, and thoroughly enjoyed the reading because I have.

message 25: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 279 comments I like Lark's phrase "stretching my diversity muscles." That's what I think I'm going for in all of this. Maybe I notice when reading something that it is different for me, a stretch. And after reading it I feel better. So I want to include more of that, and then keep exploring til I find another area that needs stretching.

I agree the numbers definitely don't tell the whole story. Perhaps it's more of a gut feeling, but the numbers can inform the feeling … sometimes.

message 26: by Kristina (new)

Kristina | 66 comments Interesting questions.

I have read 39 books so far:

27 are by female writers
12 by male writer

I have reread Harry Potter and another series by a female writer, so thats one reason why I have read more female writers than usually.

UK 18
US 6
Germany 6
Austria 1
Switzerland 1
Russia 2
Japan 1
India 1
Afghanistan 1
Nigeria 1

Way more possibilities to read more diverse geographically

message 27: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod
LindaJ^ wrote: "Recently I've read that someone I should remember, but don't said history is better told through fiction than non-fiction writing. I think that might also hold true for culture. But that brings to ..."

Probably an excellent question for a whole thread of its own dealing with cultural/artistic appropriation, LindaJ^! I believe Lionel Shriver sparked quite a controversy within the last year or so at a conference she spoke at where she basically said writers should be free to inhabit whatever culture/personas they choose to explore. (OK, found her actual speech: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/13/lionel-shrivers-full-speech-i-hope-the-concept-of-cultural-appropriation-is-a-passing-fad)

There was more than a little backlash.

message 28: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2160 comments Mod
You had to bring up Shriver, didn't you? I lost much respect for her after this kerfuffle. She is the literary equivalent of those comics crying that it's some kind of violation of their free speech when they're criticized for tired racist and misogynist humor. She was aggrieved that a critic had pointed out offensive racist stereotypes in her book, and claims these kind of criticisms are the equivalent of demanding that people never write about other cultures.

To sum up her arguments, her stated point is that writers should be free to have characters from other races and cultures. Which absolutely NO ONE outside of a fringe element would disagree with. Her unstated point is that they shouldn't be criticized when those characters are perceived as offensive stereotypes. Sorry, Lionel, free speech goes both ways.

message 29: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod
She seems to revel in her gadfly role. I pay her the same amount of attention I did as before this recent kerfluffle, which is to say none. I was impressed with We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I include as part of my 3-pack, book gift sets to all expectant parents (the other two selections being The Fifth Child and Geek Love).

I do think if you're going to write from another cultural or racial perspective that is not your own, you should expect to be held to a pretty damn high standard. That just goes with the territory.

message 30: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments Marc wrote: "I do think if you're going to write from another cultural or racial perspective that is not your own, you should expect to be held to a pretty damn high standard. That just goes with the territory. .."

I agree. It's a problem when authors are somehow supposed to write only about their demographic. I remember Andrew Sean Greer got negative reviews for The Story of a Marriage for not revealing earlier in the story that his main character was black.

T. Geronimo Johnson's Welcome to Braggsville is a story that upends expectation in a really interesting way--this African American author gave his young/white/male character a great deal of authenticity and played on expectation in some really witty ways. I recommend it.

message 31: by Whitney (last edited Aug 08, 2018 08:40AM) (new)

Whitney | 2160 comments Mod
Here's a good read from Ken Kalfus, on the original review he wrote on Shriver's book that pushed all her buttons.


message 32: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod
Thanks for the book rec, Lark--sounds like a good one! And thanks for the Kalfus article link, Whitney--definitely puts the Shriver speech into better context.

Generally, people don't seem to get upset when they feel an artist has genuinely made an attempt to understand, represent, and/or respect their viewpoint/culture.

message 33: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments Now that I've read both the review and the re-review of The Mandibles it seems likely that the novel was meant to call attention to racial stereotypes by exaggerating them in a satirical way, and that Shriver is pushing back against people telling her she can't satirize black people. She doesn't think she should have boundaries set. But I think she is wrong. She can't just write satire about black people blithely, out of context. She can't assume that centuries of racial stereotyping by white writers shouldn't affect how her story is received. Of course it should affect how her story is received. I guess I'm on the side of p.c. boundaries being completely useful, and that white writers should avoid using black stereotypes as satire in their writing for a couple hundred years or so.

message 34: by carissa (new)

carissa Marc wrote: "We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I include as part of my 3-pack, book gift sets to all expectant parents (the other two selections being The Fifth Child and Geek Love)."

funniest thing I've read today...

message 35: by Doug (new)

Doug carissa wrote: "Marc wrote: "We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I include as part of my 3-pack, book gift sets to all expectant parents (the other two selections being The Fifth Child and Geek Love)."

funniest th..."

You should add in a copy of THIS!: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4...

message 36: by carissa (new)

carissa Doug wrote: "You should add in a copy of THIS!: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4... "

horrible. we are horrible people...hilarious!

message 37: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2719 comments Mod

Ha--I love that they made a broadway show out of The Bad Seed! Maybe it really does need to be a 4-pack gift set...

message 38: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2160 comments Mod
Lark wrote: "I guess I'm on the side of p.c. boundaries being completely useful, and that white writers should avoid using black stereotypes as satire in their writing for a couple hundred years or so..."

That sounds reasonable. We can reassess the situation in 200 years.

There's also this annoying "I'm a rebel and a gadfly, I push buttons!" followed by "How dare you get upset that I have pushed buttons!"

message 39: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments Whitney wrote: "Here's a good read from Ken Kalfus, on the original review he wrote on Shriver's book that pushed all her buttons.


Shriver’s a whiny, entitled jerk. She’s angry that none of her other books have sold as well as Kevin and has decided it’s everyone’s fault but her own. Thanks for sharing this. I’d not known what originally prompted her to share her ugliness.

message 40: by Carol (last edited Aug 08, 2018 07:36PM) (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments I’ve been tracking the diversity of my reads for several years, and also track and endeavor to read novels from a few dozen countries, a few graphic novels, poetry, plays and nonfiction each year.

For 2018, out of 109 books:

50% are written by an author from a country other than the US or UK, or take place predominately in a country other the US or UK
40% are written by women
26% are translations into English (I thought this number was higher)
35% are written by authors of color
5% are written by lgbt authors, or write about lgbt themes or characters

If I don’t track it, as several others have stated, I find myself reading a higher percentage of American and British white males than I desire, resulting in the exclusion of other voices, cultures and perspectives. Also, economically, I want a significant portion of my book dollars to fund the voices and careers of non-white, non-affluent authors and literary fiction in translation, and that also doesn’t occur without intention. Reading literature in translation and from Asian countries, in particular, is a priority in my reading choices. It’s also why I tend not to focus on reading through entire prize lists. I can’t meet all goals without giving up something.

message 41: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments Kathleen wrote: "I like Lark's phrase "stretching my diversity muscles." That's what I think I'm going for in all of this. Maybe I notice when reading something that it is different for me, a stretch. And after rea..."

Only read the start of this article, but hope to return to it -- and that it stands up to reading further. Since it seemed relevant to our discussion here, decided to post before I lost it: https://lithub.com/what-does-immersin...

message 42: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 279 comments Lily, that article is full of great info. Thanks so much for sharing!

I know that reading increases empathy, and how important that is to live in the world, just from my own life experiences. But here's two bits I didn't know:

"research group at Stanford University that showed a 40 percent decline in empathy in our young people over the last two decades, with the most precipitous decline in the last ten years."
40%!!!! That is terrifying.

And it goes into some detail about the actual impact of reading on the brain which was fascinating. About Anna Karenina, for example:
"In all likelihood the same neurons you deploy when you move your legs and trunk were also activated when you read that Anna jumped before the train."

I'm going to look for her book: Reader, Come Home: The Fate of the Reading Brain in a Digital World.

message 43: by Amy (new)

Amy Rudolph | 23 comments At some point I realized, looking at the scattergram of my books on Goodreads, that I was overwhelmingly focused on 21st century American fiction. I wound up joining another book club on Goodreads (sorry) that focuses on reading books from countries around the world - Around the World in 80 Books - and took on the challenge of reading 24 books per year from countries all over the world, and all 7 continents. That really injected some variety and diversity into my reading that had been lacking for a while, and I discovered some books I never would have read otherwise. I did that for 4 years and enjoyed it a lot.

Besides that, to push myself outside my comfort zone, I make sure to read 1 biography a year, 1 other work of nonfiction, 1 play by Shakespeare, 1 other play, 1 major work of poetry (like Leaves of Grass), a number of classics (preferably published before I was born, though there are some modern classics), and 1 book in French. I majored in French, and that is my feeble attempt to keep my hand in. Depending on the book, I may also read the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. I haven’t worked on other types of diversity consciously (though it did work out to expand my gender and racial diversity of authors). This year I tabled the Around the World challenge to work on a backlog of TBR books that had accumulated while I was filling quotas and checking off boxes. Many of those were series by the same author, which was something I couldn’t indulge when I was trying to check off 24 countries. So my reading diversity this year is not high - at least that I’m aware of.

message 44: by David (new)

David | 242 comments All 7 continents? I did not know there was a literature of Antarctica. Perhaps I should check what Penguin books has to offer, as they are the most likely publishers of such books....


message 46: by Amy (new)

Amy Rudolph | 23 comments Antarctica is a tough one, David ... but can be done. There are books about the various Antarctic explorers (last century and this one), for example. The Around the World in 80 Books page has a huge array of books helpfully sorted by continent and country ... you would be amazed how many books are set in Antarctica! I’ve made it an “optional” continent for this project, only reading something from there if it captures my imagination. But you are right - it is a natural fit for Penguin Books!!

message 47: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 142 comments I use to keep track years ago on how diverse my reading year was and what "holes" I have had in my reading.
But I stopped doing this a couple of years ago because it turns out that my reading was pretty diverse.
And now I just "wing" it.
I know I need to read books by authors from the Balkan region and Central Asia.

message 48: by Hugh (last edited Aug 23, 2018 02:58AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2715 comments Mod
My gender equality policy is being challenged again by this group's reading choices. I have just acquired the next three group reads, and the books I already had on the to read shelf by male authors that have been there almost a year are in danger of being pushed back yet again...

Just done a quick count and have 15 men and 10 women on the to-read list. Until I can redress that, I will refuse any discussions of male-authored books unless I already have them.

message 49: by Michael (new)

Michael | 9 comments i count (or goodreads counts for me) that i have now read 4 501 books, of which 1379 are translation, 1257 nonfiction, 989 women authors, 657 graphic (art included), 570 philosophy, all in overlap, so by numbers i have some ‘diverse’ reading, i am of course myself ‘diverse’ in background if not gender, politics, class, education etc. i have developed ‘philosophical’ arguments for original tendencies to read anything, to read all genres from sff to crime to literature (though somehow not romance...) of all eras all languages all genders... these arguments have nothing to do with something called ‘political correctness’, which decriers seem to use to justify hate, nothing more, but is simply that as the world is diverse so our reading should be diverse. i do not subscribe to some insular cultural identity or history as this always elides various views of people in those cultures, rich or poor, faith or atheist, woman or man, young or old, straight or whatever... the point in reading is to have some interpretation of other possibilities of the world... so read languages translated and cultures alien and eras distant and genders fluid, and maybe, just maybe, you will make the world know itself through you...

message 50: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 220 comments a few years ago I participated in a group read of The Novel: A Biography in the Roundtable GR group, and I had a bit of an unnerving realization about how perfectly the book, a history of fiction written in English, also chronicles the history of silenced voices, and although that wasn't news to me, it was a harrowing realization anyway, and for the last three years about 3/4 of the new fiction I read is by non-white and/or non-men. It hasn't been hard at all to stay busy and delighted with what I'm reading.

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