Two years ago, I took my first conscious look at what kind of books I was filling my life with and who they were written by (I wrote about it here). Since then, I feel like I’ve become a more mindful reader by balancing out the types of books that I read and making time to prioritize authors that can offer a different narrative than what I’m accustomed to.
So when I reviewed the books that I read in 2015, I wanted to see how they measured up in the spectrum of diversity. What percentage of those books were written by women? Nonwhite authors? What about their characters? What genre triumphed and what genre had I not even touched? How many books were published before I was born or set in places I had never been to?
I figured I needed hard data based on the following:
• Fiction vs. Non-Fiction
• Publishing Decade
• Book Setting
• Author Gender
• Protagonist Gender
• Author Race
• Protagonist Race
• Author Nationality
It’s not a perfect list, but it’s a start. I crunched the numbers and the results were a mixed bag.
First, here are the 15 books I read in 2015, in the order of my favorite to least:
Saga (Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
Station Eleven by Emily St. John-Mandel
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen
The Stand by Stephen King
Meditation: An In-Depth Guide by Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson
China Dolls by Lisa See
Let’s start by comparing Fiction and Non-Fiction.
What can I say? I’ve always preferred Fiction, but there’s definitely value in reading Non-Fiction. Got several in mind that I could get around to this year.
Clearly, it’s been a Sci-Fi year for me, especially if you consider Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic to be sub-genres of Sci-Fi. It’s come to be my favorite genre.
Not surprisingly, most of the books I read last year were contemporary. New mission for 2016: read one book published before the 70s.
I spent a lot of time in my own country last year. San Francisco, Michigan, Boulder, and New England were some places my books took me to. If I wasn’t exploring the good ol’ USA, I was in Outer Space. Yikes– what does that say about my view on other countries in this world? Yeah, definitely gotta get my hands on more stories set in countries I haven’t visited.
An improvement from two years ago, when only 25% of the books I read were by female authors, but still a ways to go before I catch up to the amount of written work by men that I have consumed in my lifetime. Not to mention, books by Transgender authors are virtually lacking from my bookshelves (that I know of).
It’s telling that there are less female protagonists than female authors in this pool of books. Basically, everyone needs to write more female characters, mm’kay?
Well, this one surprised me. I made a personal goal to read more Asian Literature last year, but it seems that the more Asian authors I picked up, the less I read other People of Color. Reminder: being conscious is a practice that never ends.
If writers write what they know, then it should come as no surprise that the majority of the protagonists I read about were white, like their creators.
And finally, author nationality. Makes sense that I’d consume mostly American literature seeing as I’m an American myself. However, reading works by authors who were raised in a different country and culture than myself would contribute to widening my perspective, which would be sweet.
I have mixed feelings about the overview of my 2015 books. On one hand, I was happy about closing the gender gap in the authors that I read. On the other hand, I was disappointed to see that so few authors of color graced the biography sleeves of my books. I also realized how few books I read were humorous. I want to read more books that make me laugh!
I’m glad I did this review. This type of awareness doesn’t feel like a burden weighing down on my future book choices. Rather, it gives me a more goal-driven attitude towards reading where I used to feel sort of aimless, picking up a book simply because it caught my attention at that moment. It also gives me a sense of direction in prioritizing my never-ending list of books I want to read. This may very well become an annual review for me.
I hope this blog post encourages you to take a mindful look at your own bookshelf, too. Happy reading in 2016!