2015 was another pretty good year for my reading. 52 books, half by women. I’ll take it. This year, I have two overarching goals: to dig deeper in a subject matter, and to increase the diversity of my reading further. Here’s how I plan to achieve that:
Read fifty two books.
I’ve done this now two years in a row, now. I see now reason why I can’t do it again.
Meet (somewhat arbitrary) diversity goals.
Last year, I was disappointed with myself — I only read a few books by people of color. I want to make a concerted effort to change that this year. How? Well my first thought to mirror the U.S. census in my reading. Putting this into practice turns out to be a complicated and fraught idea. Census data can be unreliable, especially in communities in color. It also fails to count Hispanics/Latinos as a separate category. Also, the numbers don’t really work (how do you divide .2% (the percentage of the population that is Pacific Islander into 52?).
Finally, it isn’t like I’m only going to read American authors, there’s a whole world out there. If that’s the case, why not use world population numbers? Frankly, because the statistics are complex; it would be hard for me to fit them into a goal of reading 52 books (though I might try next year).
So with those concerns, here’s what I’ve decided to do – use U.S. demographic information as a jumping off point, and then set my own diversity goals.
Here they are:
- 10 books (or ~17%) written by Latino writers
- 7 books (or ~13 %) written by writers from Africa or of African descent
- 3 books (or roughly 5%) written by writers from Asia or of Asian descent
- 1 book (or roughly 1%) written by a Native American writer
- 1 book (or roughly 1%) written by a writer from the pacific islands or of pacific island decent,
The rest of the books can (but certainly do not have to be) written by Caucasian writers.
Half of all books will be written by women.
I think it would be a fair criticism to say that these goals are simplistic, perhaps even tokenistic. These categories are too broad to be deeply meaningful (as if a writer from Kenya shares the same ideas and concerns as a African american author from Los Angeles). These categories do not include religious difference. Nor do they take into account sexuality, or the place of transgender writers. You cannot break writers down into such neat and tidy boxes, nor should you. You shouldn’t turn whole vasts areas of human thought, and huge groups of writers, into a check boxes.
Yet here is what I have to say in my defense: year in, year out, I have shown that, left to my own devices, I will generally read books written by white men. Last year, when I set a goal of reading more women, I did. I discovered books I never would have otherwise read, and I learned things I would not have otherwise learned. That isn’t a bad thing. I think taking this project of diversified reading to the next level, while deeply flawed, is at least worth a shot.
I welcome people’s criticism of the idea and suggestions for ways to do it better.
Dig deep into a specific subject area.
In addition to diversifying my reading, I’m also very interested in digging deeply into a single subject (kind of like I did a couple of years ago with the Civil War, but more so). I’ll be writing more about this soon, but for now, but for now, let’s say I intend to take my kinda half-assed study of the ancient world to the next level over the coming years.
Write reviews of all books.
Just like last year, I plan to write short reviews of every book I read. Review must be at least 100 words, but could be (and I hope often will be) much longer.
Every year in January I’m excited about what I’ll discover in the coming year, this year, perhaps more so than before. Please feel free to share recommendations / criticisms / ideas of how I could do this better in the comments.