Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Reads - Looking Back and Looking Forward

Last year at about this time, I was making my annual Goodreads challenge. I'd easily met the previous year's challenge, and I had just started a job as a children's librarian, where I was reading tons of children's books. So I picked 300 as a nice, round number of books to read in 2015. You know, like you do. :) Yes, I count children's books, picture books, and graphic novels (but not individual comic books, because those are basically like reading a single chapter). They're books. I read them. And I like to put them into Goodreads so I can remember reading them after I've read 300 books.

I almost made it. I read 297 books by the end of the year. Could I have crammed in another couple graphic novels or picture books? Yes. But by the end of the year, I was feeling a little silly about binge-reading picture books just to say I'd read some arbitrary number of books in 365 days. Instead, I looked at some information about the books I did read, and I found some startling (and not-so-startling) things. Prepare to geek out with me here.

I tag a lot of my books with multiple genres/topics, so this chart is not a 1-to-1 kind of chart. But, you I read a lot of fantasy. Like, almost 3 times more fantasy than anything else. Lots of the humor is children's books, because so many picture books are humor. But I definitely need to up my genre game. In 2016, I'd like to read more other stuff. More romance, more mystery, more crime, more poetry, more memoirs, more historical fiction, more books with protagonists with disabilities. Just more. If you've got some non-fantasy recommendations, I'm all ears. When it comes to fantasy, though, I've obviously got it covered. :)

YA = young adult     NA = new adult

Not surprisingly, most of my reads were children's (I'm a children's librarian, guys. No judgement. Although 12% is pretty low...), the formats were pretty evenly divided, and about half of the books I read last year were by men and half by women. That little 0% neither/both is one author who does not identify as either male or female (the author of George, which is, incidentally, amazing), but in the sea of so many books this year, one doesn't add up to a full percentage point.

The surprising (and embarrassing, and horrible) thing about my reads this year is that such a small fraction of them were authored by people of color. As a librarian (and a human!), I believe so strongly that #weneedmorediversebooks, and like so many white Americans, I've been following the #blacklivesmatter movement with mixed feelings of wanting to support it but not knowing how or what kinds of support would be welcome and what might be offensive.

Racism in the U.S. is a huge topic, and instead of speaking for others, I am going to simply direct you to a few people who can write about it more eloquently than I (links at the bottom of this post).

But one of the things I can do (and you can do) as a reader is take a critical look at our reading material. Are we supporting authors of color by reading and talking about their books? Saying #weneedmorediversebooks is pointless if we're not reading them! This is especially important for those of us who are also librarians. We're providing reader's advisory and information about books to patrons every day, people! We need to take a careful look at whether our own reading lists reflect our professed ideology.

Mine doesn't. So in 2016, I'm going to make a point of reading more books by non-white authors. And by "more," I mean more than 50%. Because I'd like my reading choices to reflect the actual world and not this strange white-washed version that I seem to have inadvertently settled into.

I'm not setting myself a crazy high reading goal this year. I want to read more adult books, and I want to focus more on quality, content, and diversifying both my reading material and the authors I read. So no binge-reading picture books in late December 2016. :)

Do you have any book recommendations for me? I'll never judge your reading preferences, and I'd love to discover books I may never have found otherwise.

Happy New Year!

Promised links:
I Don't Know What to Do With Good White People
This Is What White People Can Do to Support #BlackLivesMatter
Why Is It So Controversial When Someone Says "All Lives Matter"?
Between the World and Me - This is on my immediate to-read list for the year.

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