In 2014, I set a goal of 50 books for the year, and managed 34. When discussing our reading goals for the following year, I set it at 100, because I am clearly insane. I trailed behind pace for most of the year, but with a massive push to the end and helped by a bunch of middle grade and the fact that paperbacks of collected comics are 1) listed as books on Goodreads and 2) available at my library, I hit the goal.
So am I gonna do it again next year? Hell no. I’m setting a more reasonable goal of 60 for 2016. A pace of a book every 3-4 days is certainly doable… if you’re reading consistently all year. But I tend to go in fits and spurts and books that required close reading (like Perdido Street Station), that were a slog to get through (like Strangers on a Train), or were simply longer than I anticipated (like Winter) further threw me off. And I wasn’t just reading short books, I was eschewing several long books that I wanted to read but knew I couldn’t fit into my schedule. (Someday, Seveneves.) Plus, while it’s certainly possible for me to read most books in a single sitting these days, the practical effect of staying up well past midnight for several nights running is not pretty, especially when one’s first alarm goes off at 5am. The balls-out pace was certainly fun just to say that I did it, and even factoring in all the short books I still read significantly more words and pages than I had done for a long time, but I don’t see a need for a repeat performance.
Now, out of curiosity, I decided to break down the demographics of the stuff I read this year. I’ve professed in the past my support of the We Need Diverse Books movement, so I figured I’d take a look and see how my actual reading shapes up.
Spoiler alert: It’s not pretty.
The 100 books I read came from 55 writers (and 11 comic artists). When I went through the demographic groups, here’s what I found:
Women: 30 writers, 5 artists
Gender non-binary: 1 writer
People of color: 5 writers, 6 artists
Women of color: 4 writers, 2 artists
LGBT+: 7 writers
LGBT people of color: 1 (Hi, Malinda Lo!)
Disabled: Big fat 0
Repeat authors: 7 women, 8 men
Repeat LGBT+ authors: 1
Repeat authors of color: 0
(I should slap a big fat disclaimer that I gathered most of the demographic data from quick scans of Wikipedia pages and Twitter and Goodreads bios, so it’s entirely possible that I’ve miscategorized people who, say, are light-skinned but don’t identify as white, or who don’t have their sexual/gender identities thusly listed. Hell, my 1 repeat queer author, Victoria Schwab, is someone I only know of as bisexual because I follow her on Twitter. So it’s possible that my numbers might not be quite as dire as I think. But they’re still pretty bad.)
I’m clearly doing okay with female authors, which doesn’t surprise me much given my preference for YA, fantasy, and female-driven comic properties like Ms. Marvel and Lumberjanes. But on other fronts? I’ve been talking the talk, but clearly not walking the walk.
So whether I end up reading 60 books, many fewer, or many more, I’m making the commitment that at least half of the books I read will be from authors in these underrepresented categories. It’s not like I don’t have tons of them on my TBR list, especially since I started seeking out recommendations for them, so now I just need to actually make a point of reading them. This doesn’t mean that I’m rejecting authors from majority groups, more that I need to consciously seek a balance, paying attention to the voices that I’m absorbing and amplifying. Awareness of the issue is good. Doing something about it is better.