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Read Different Challenge

diverse books

Diversity in reading has always been important to me and it’s something I have tracked in my own reading for several years. So I’d like to propose a challenge to our readers and hope you all join me in tacking our latest informal challenge.

A few weeks ago while I was at BEA, I attended a panel titled “we need diverse books” that was based on the grassroots campaign of the same name.  The panel discussed issues of diversity in publishing and the appalling lack of diversity in what actually gets published (although this has improved over the years). One of publishers on the panel was from Little Bear and she mentioned the “Read Different” program created by Hachette.

Why is reading diversely important? There are so many reasons why diversity in books is important. You can check out some of those reasons in the slide show on the We need diverse books page. For me it’s about expanding my knowledge base, supporting authors who don’t fit the traditional “white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied” mold, and developing a stronger sense of empathy.

I will be taking the challenge to read different this year. I am a white, mixed ethnicity, heterosexual, able-bodied woman. I try my hardest to read a wide array of books by different authors and about different types of characters but the truth is that the majority of books I read are written by white, male, heterosexual authors from either the U.S. or the U.K. Furthermore, I read mostly literary fiction and rarely explore books outside of literary fiction. So I want to make a conscious effort to do more to support diverse authors and books. I hope you join me.

The challenge: To join me in reading different!

What does this mean? It means to make a conscious effort to read outside your normal areas and to expand your reading horizons. The meaning of “read different” will be unique to each person. It could mean reading a genre that you don’t typically read, reading a book about a gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, that is different from your own, or reading a book by an author from an underrepresented group in publishing.

The rules: Think outside the box and incorporate some different sorts of books into your reading this year. Some of you are probably already doing some form of this in your own reading so you can simply join us be increasing your involvement. You set the limit on how involved you want to be in the project. It could be 10% of your books, one book a month, 50% of your books, 100% of your books. You decide. This is an informal challenge with no rigid rules or concrete prizes (the prize is to expand your reading horizon).

Once a month (toward the end of the month), we’ll be asking those of you participating to share your experiences (which books you chose, the reasons for picking them, and what you thought about the experience).  If you would like to share your experiences in the challenge, post pictures of your books, or post updates, make sure to tag us so we can see them (twitter, instagram, or Facebook).

So who’s with me? If you would like to join us in this challenge, start off by letting us know what reading different means to you, what goal you’d like to set for yourself, and why you think diversity in books is important.

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m going to give this a go. I started trying to increase the number of female authors I read at the end of March, because my male/female stats on LT shocked me. I already read a reasonable amount of fiction by authors from non-European, non-North American countries, but I could read more. I think the area I could do better in is around disability, either physical or mental. As well as my existing one book by a new-to-me female author per month, I’m going to try to read one book that features a key character with a disability within the next three months. Or four per year, if you will!

    It’s important to me to read diversely so that my reading habits don’t just confirm my own experience on this planet. I can never be anyone other than myself, but that doesn’t mean I should shut myself off from reading experiences that show me life from another perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

    May 20, 2016
    • I love it! And your reasons for reading diversely mirror mine. I think you and I probably have similar reading habits. I also read a fair amount of non-European and non-American literature but read almost nothing around disability and fairly little with LGBT characters.


      May 20, 2016
  2. Tracy S #

    Count me in! I’ve been trying to increase the diversity in my reading for a long time, too. Authors from different races, countries, cultures, orientation and abilities have voices that need to be heard, too. Part of the reason I got started on the 1001 list was that there was some diversity.
    I, too, need to look more at LGBT and other-abled, as well as some more Native American voices, which are really not well represented on the “list”. I’d also like to learn more about other religions: more education means more tolerance.
    I’m going to try to read 67% nonwhitestraightmale, with an extra effort to include LGBT and other abled authors and characters, and to read from religious texts or books about unfamiliar religions.

    Liked by 1 person

    May 20, 2016
    • Excellent! I can’t wait to see what you select!


      May 20, 2016
    • Other religions is an interesting one, too. When it’s an everyday part of an author’s life, and an everyday part of their characters’ lives, it can be portrayed quite subtly. I found that with Aminatta Forna’s The Hired Man. The tensions between the Christian and Muslim communities in the Serbian village were referred to in passing rather than to the fore of the story. I’m interested to see what you find, Tracy.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 21, 2016
      • Tracy S #

        Me, too! I’m very much looking forward to this challenge, and I can’t wait to see what books we all can find and recommend to each other.

        Liked by 1 person

        May 22, 2016
  3. Gwen #

    I think “read different” is a pretty good description of my normal reading habits. There are a few genres I almost never read—romance, religious, and westerns—but not for lack of exposure. I’ve been trying to read more diversely for a few years now and although it is frustrating how easily those white male authors sneak in, I’m doing a lot better than I used to. When I started keeping track of my stats I noticed that I read significantly fewer LGBT authors and protagonists than I would like to, so like all the rest of you, I’m going to focus on that—with as much intersectionality as possible. Meaning I’ll be looking for books by and about LGBT women of color. But I don’t think I’ll put a specific number or percentage on it, because that’s how I always end up stressed out by reading challenges. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    May 24, 2016
    • this is intended to be a low key challenge rather than one with specific numbers or goals. The percentages are just one possible guideline or metric but I think equally valid is a simple acknowledgement and effort to select more diverse books. I do try to do so already but intersectionality is a good one to think about since it’s usually more complex than selecting one genre or underrepresented group

      Liked by 1 person

      May 24, 2016
  4. I’ve been thinking for a while that I should be reading in my other languages (French, Dutch) as well as English. I don’t do it because it’s harder, but now that I’ve been blogging for a year and have reviewed every book I’ve read in that time for the blog, I see that every single book is in English. I honestly thought I did more other-language reading than that. So that will be my resolution: at least one book this coming year in French and one in Dutch. Not the kind of diversity you were talking about but you are giving me the push to make that commitment. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    May 25, 2016
    • No, I think that is perfect. No set definition for what is meant by “reading different” and in fact I encourage people to think beyond the primary categories that come to mind when thinking about diverse reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      May 25, 2016
      • You are always so encouraging. 🙂 Love it! Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

        May 25, 2016
      • Aw, thank you. I legitimately mean it because I think language of origin is an important criteria and you are lucky to be able to explore books written in more than one language. That certainly counts as diversity in my mind!

        Liked by 1 person

        May 25, 2016

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