2015 brought some big changes to my reading life. I started a full-time job in April, which, though it provides more cash for book buying, takes a considerable bite out of my time for book reading. I'm not going to be able to match my total from last year of 171 books read unless the next four days go really, really well.
Even though I'm on pace to finish the year with only around 145 books read, I made one very intentional and positive change in my reading life: I committed to reading more books by authors of color.
Time for some real talk: 9 of my top 10 books read during 2014 were written by white people. Yikes. That realization hit me like a slap to the face. Here's the thing: I'm a white woman. It is no problem for me to find books written by white women. I've been a feminist since I first learned the meaning of the word, so I've always naturally gravitated toward books written by women. However, I had never gone out of my way to seek out books written by non-white authors. And I've learned that the publishing industry does not go out of its way, either, to publish or promote books by non-white authors. So what this means is, if I'm not intentional about my reading habits, I will end up reading a whole lotta books by and about people like me. And I'll enjoy those books, without a doubt—but my world won't ever get any bigger. And that seems like a sad way to live.
I probably wouldn't have even noticed the blinding whiteness of my 2014 year-end list if it weren't for the good people of Book Riot and We Need Diverse Books. Book Riot did a great FAQ series explaining why diversity in reading and publishing matters, and what casual readers can do to help. We Need Diverse Books is a great resource for YA in particular, and would have come in really handy back when I was teaching high school English. If you haven't thought much before about diversifying your reading habits, or if you're not convinced it's important, those two sites are my recommended starting places for you. They continue to educate me on how to be a good reader-ally for marginalized groups—and I know I still have a lot to learn.
So, after taking a hard look at my 2014 reading record, I knew I had to make a change for 2015. I started keeping a spreadsheet of my books read, so I could keep track of how many authors of color I was reading. I did a little research, looking up author photos and bios. I made intentional choices about what to read next instead of picking from my shelf at random. With just a little bit of effort, over 40% of the books I read this year were by authors of color.
And you know what? I'm never going back.
Some of the absolute BEST books I read this year were from that 40% of the pie chart. I would have missed out on some amazing books this year if I'd relied only on my unconscious (but very real) biases to dictate my reading choices.
Without further ado, I present to you the proof: my top 11 books read in 2015! (Yeah, I had to throw in one extra—I couldn't whittle it down any further than 11.) Six of them are by authors of color. All of them are fabulously awesome and come bearing my gold seal of approval.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
I read this book cover to cover in a single day. It's about marriage, parenting, gender, race, and the pressure to be someone other than who you are. It gave me so many feelings—I'll read anything Ng publishes, from now to eternity. Read the original post.
Aquarium by David Vann
Again with the feelings! David Vann has created the most vivid and heartbreakingly relatable narrator I've read in years, and he does it in less than 300 pages. It may be short, but Aquarium is an absolute stunner. Read the original post.
Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm
A thinking woman's page-turning heist novel. Jewel thieves! False identities! Crimes gone wrong! Great writing AND an intricate plot! What are you waiting for? Read the original post.
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
Several of my favorite books of the year centered on families, and this is one of those. An in-depth character study of one complicated family, through many years of disagreements, disappointments, and drama. I identified SO HARD with Penny, even though she wouldn't win any Mother of the Year awards (to put it mildly). Read the original post.
The Martian by Andy Weir
I read this one at Adam's behest for one of our He Read She Read videos, and darned if it wasn't the most exciting book I read all year. The final pages were so tense, I had to read them aloud because I was freaking the flip out. If you haven't read this one yet, you absolutely must. Read the original post.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I learned so much from this book. Lesson number one: There is so much I don't know. I highly recommend the audio version, read by Coates himself. Read the original post.
The Incarnations by Susan Barker
This book is the perfect balance of intelligence and charisma. It's like Matt Damon, but in book form. Read the original post.
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
I love books that lift the veil from my eyes and allow me to see the world in a more honest way. Books that shock me awake like a bucket of cold water over my head. Books that tell me a story that in my jadedness I thought I’d already heard before. Book clubs, order another round of drinks, because your discussion will run overtime. Read the original post.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin's brand of science fiction is like regular science fiction, plus the emotional weight and stylistic skill of my favorite literary writers. Jackpot! Read the original post.
The Shore by Sara Taylor
What really put The Shore over the top for me was the structure. It’s not a novel, and it’s not a collection of short stories. It’s a set of linked, overlapping chapters that, though each one is a discrete, satisfying piece on its own, when read together makes a chillingly effective whole. Gritty, violent, and absolutely riveting. Read the original post.
Pleasantville by Attica Locke
This is hands down the best thriller I read this year, and I read The Girl on the Train. If you like the TV show Scandal, you will love Attica Locke and her pulse-pounding political thrillers. Read the original post.
I can't wait to see what reading adventures await me in 2016. How was your year in reading? Do you have any goals for the new year? Comments are open on this post, so let me know your thoughts!