I’m participating in 2 reading challenges this year: the Goodreads Challenge, for which I pledged to read 104 books (double last year’s target), and a self-imposed challenge to read more diversely.
In the past few years I’ve managed to read double my target for the Goodreads challenge, increasing the target, year on year, accordingly. My total for the year so far is 84, so I’ll meet my target of 104, and may even exceed it, but I won’t be doubling it this year. At this point in my life, 104 seems to be the upper limit of the number of books I can read in a year. I should note that the actual amount I’ll have read is higher as I don’t count magazines, newspapers, or single issues of comic books. Or books read to the Tiny Tyrant for that matter.
I noticed when doing the Classics challenge last year that it was very easy to default to works by white, male authors, so I decided to work at increasing the diversity of my reading this year. I’ve been taking stock of my progress each quarter. January to March included 7 books by BAME and/or women authors out of a total 18 books. Between April and the end of June I read 14 out of a total 36 books. The second quarter flagged up that diversity is not always clear cut. Some of the books I read were diverse in terms of characters, but written by white, male authors. While I want to support BAME authors, I also want to see more diversity in the content of all books – and no, I don’t mean adding a single black or lgbtqa character who is expected to represent their entire community and likely therefore to descend into stereotype – I mean representing the world that most of us see everyday, which is far more varied than many books would have you believe. While I didn’t count Patrick Weekes’ Rogues of the Republic series (wonderfully inclusive and inventive fantasy) in my total, they’re certainly the type of book I want to read more of.
Since July 11 of a total 30 books read count toward my challenge. Outstanding among them are Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Queen fantasy novels: a wonderful blend of Indian history, myth, and fairy tale whose heroines combine guts and vulnerability. I also greatly enjoyed David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History, which is a wonderful riposte to those who’d have you believe that there were no black people in Britain prior to the 1950s. What I’ve realised in this third quarter is how hard it can be to read diversely. When I took part in the Classics challenge last year it was very easy to pick a book at the start of the month; deliberately choosing diverse books requires more research and planning, and I’m conscious that I’ve slacked off at busy times. I think if I were to repeat this challenge, I would set an actual target rather than leave it to chance.
I have managed to keep the proportion of diverse books to about a third of my reading total, and I hope to maintain that in the final quarter, and beyond. I’ll let you know how it’s gone in December.