2016 Reading Challenge

About a year ago, I posted a run-down of the books I read in 2015, as well as three separate posts detailing my reading plans for 2016. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is not the soul of this blog.

That was early January, but since it feels unlikely that I’m going to finish anything tomorrow, I thought I’d get a jump on the reflecting. This year, I made myself a spreadsheet to track my reading (my engineer husband is so proud). I finished 87 books. Of those, 42 were written by people of color, which is a drastic improvement from my mostly-white 2015 reading list. The breakdown of author gender was pretty similar, with about 2/3 female authors and only one non-binary author.

Wiser people write about the issue of diversity in publishing every day, but here’s my two cents: I had a harder time finding new fiction by people with backgrounds different from my own. These books were not always on library or bookstore shelves. Many of the ones I did find were indie or self-published, rather than from a major publishing house. The discrepancy has certainly made me more conscious about where I spend my book-buying dollars.

I read more nonfiction this year- thirteen books total. A good percentage of those were writing books that I read in an effort to improve my own craft, or maybe figure out what genre the book I’m writing is (With some help from friends and books, I’ve settled on calling it paranormal suspense). Reading with a goal in mind helps decrease the feeling that I’m doing pointless homework.

There was less fantasy this year, or maybe it just looks that way because I stopped lumping “paranormal” in with “fantasy.” There were a lot more romances this year—I was craving happy endings, for sure. According to my lovely spreadsheet I read somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,600 pages total, which is a basically meaningless number because of font sizes and different editions and illustrations and such, but still fun to look at.

I’ll be back sometime next week to let you know what to expect from this blog in 2017 (hint: it is mostly books and yelling about The Magicians). In the meantime, here are my favorites from the past twelve months:

Favorite New Series: Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate. I picked up Soulless back when it first came out in 2009. I can’t remember if I was having paranormal burnout or het romance burnout or what, but I didn’t finish it then. I’m so pleased I got it out of the library again. I’ve never purchased a box set that fast.

Favorite Continuing Series: The Obelisk Gate is the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy. N.K. Jemisin continues to break my heart in new and creative ways.

Favorite Re-Imagined StoryThe Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. I love a good fairy tale retelling. Even though I’ve never read Hale before, this felt like coming home.

Favorite Classic That I Finally Got Around ToKindred by Octavia Butler. Newer, as “classics” go, but wrenching and still so necessary.

Favorite Comic: I am a little sad to be coming to the end of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, which gets better and better as it goes.

Favorite Surprise Discovery/Debut Author: I’ve already written about how much I found Mishell Baker’s Borderline thanks to a bookstore staff recommendation. It’s a stunning paranormal mystery full of complex characters, fairies, and modern Hollywood intrigue, and I’m so so happy I picked it up.

Favorite Overall: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is the 16th book in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Bujold has incredible range as a writer, but this is how I like her best—sci-fi with a twist of family drama, romance, and comedy.

What other excellent and life-changing literature did you experience this year? Tell me in the comments, and have a safe and happy new year.

2016 Reading Update

Congratulations, everyone, we made it halfway through the year! It hasn’t been easy. The news has not been good. But here you are, six months in, still kicking, still making it work. Nice job. I’m proud of you.

It seems like a good time to check back in with the reading resolutions I set for myself in January. So far I’ve finished 41 books. I have a spreadsheet, you guys.

Books by Authors of Color

My goal is to read at least 35 books by authors of color this year, and so far I’ve finished 23. This is already a huge upswing in diversity from 2015, when I only finished 10. I had some reservations about the wording of this resolution, which I go into in my original post. But overall I think it’s been a good exercise for me. If nothing else, it’s encouraged me to check out authors I haven’t read before, like Octavia Butler and Daniel José Older.

Nonfiction Books

I have read as few as four or as many as seven nonfiction books. I was aiming for five, so okay, but why the discrepancy? Well, I didn’t really think this one through as well as I should have. I didn’t really have poetry in mind at first, but if you want to get technical, it is shelved in nonfiction. Then there’s the issue of books The Water is Wide, which walk a thin line between memoir and novel.

Of the four incontrovertibly, uncontestably nonfiction books I have read, two were about writing craft and two were about feminism. Make of that what you will.

Authors with Different Gender Identities

I was getting a little weary of goal setting by the time I came to gender. I read about an equal number of male and female authors last year, but to my knowledge no trans or non-binary authors. The very low bar I set for myself was a vague sort of “I can do better” statement.

And I’ve done…better, I guess, if you count one book. One in Every Crowd by Ivan E. Coyote is another semi-fictionalized memoir, geared towards a young adult audience. It deals with the narrator/author’s own experience growing up as a gender nonconformist in rural Canada, as well as their adult experiences mentoring queer youth.

Look, I don’t cry a lot. If I type “this made me cry” in a text or a tweet or a blog post, you can read it as “this made me emotional and maybe my eyes watered a little.” But while I was reading One in Every Crowd there were big, wet, I-need-to-stop-and-get-a-tissue-before-I-short-out-my-Kindle tears running down my face. Five stars, highly recommend.

Other Observations

Most of the authors I’ve read are American, with a handful from the UK and a very small number from anywhere else. My most-read genre is sci-fi (11 books) closely followed by fantasy (10 books). Overwhelmingly I read ebooks rather than any other format, although I did have a few audiobooks and paperbacks as well.

So that’s where I’m at as of July 1. I’ll check back in around December and let you know how I did.

How is your reading year going?

Book Review: Legend

When young adult dystopia became a big trend post-Hunger Games, I was really into it for a while. I’ve loved stories about people struggling to thrive in hostile future landscapes since I read The Giver in fifth grade, so when the dystopia boom came, I was eating them up. Then I got burned out, like you do. Lately I’ve been dipping back into the genre, and I’ve been generally enjoying the results. If you are also in the mood for teenagers fighting back against oppressive governments and Scary Capitalized Nouns, allow me to suggest Legend by Marie Lu, the first book in the Legend Trilogy.

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The premise is solid—many years before the book takes place, extreme climate change and natural disasters destroyed life and we know it. The map of the United States was redrawn, both physically and politically. Most of the East Coast is underwater, and the Western states have seceded to create the Republic. By the time Legend begins, good citizens of the Republic don’t believe there ever was a United States. All they remember is their seemingly unending war against the other states, now known as the Colonies.

The climate change element is what sells it for me. I’m so tired of speculative fiction where the evil fun-hating dictator takes over and everyone just goes with it. With so many resources wiped out, it’s plausible that people would have traded some freedom for a sense of security. Aside from the hurricanes and floods, there are also periodic outbreaks of plague to worry about. The government can cure that, of course, which helps to cement the people’s loyalty.

The story focuses on Day and June, two fifteen-year-olds living in Los Angeles. Day, the son of a poor family, was declared useless to the Republic when he was ten. After failing his Trial, an important aptitude test, he narrowly escaped being killed. The government murders children for not being smart/fast/useful enough, and that’s strangely not regarded as the worst thing they do. It’s not dismissed, but it’s not the Moral Event Horizon you’d expect (link to TVTropes, sorry not sorry).

Day has become a Robin Hood-like figure in the city’s slums, causing trouble for the city’s higher-ups and omnipresent military. His real concern, though, is caring for his mother and two brothers. When his younger brother, Eden, comes down with a new strain of the plague, Day is willing to take great risks to find a cure.

June, by contrast, was raised to wealth and privilege. After earning a rare perfect score on her Trial, she was accelerated through military school. All she wants is to graduate and serve her country alongside her brother Matias. Matias raised June after their parents died in an accident, and he’s the most important person in her life.

When Matias is killed in an attempt to capture Day, June’s whole life changes. Her first post-school assignment is to work out a new plan to apprehend Day, and she channels all of her grief into tracking down the boy she believes killed her brother. She goes undercover as a street urchin in order to earn his trust. Of course, this works out a little too well, and both June and Day wind up facing some difficult truths about themselves and the world they live in.

June and Day tell the story in the first person in alternating chapters. I should stop complaining about switching POV. I say I hate it, but maybe it’s time I admit that it’s just a technique, one that can be done well or poorly. It worked for me here, and I felt equally invested in both protagonists.

If I could ask for more of anything in this book, it would be romantic tension. I wanted more of a “will-they-or-won’t-they” pull. There’s a lot of emphasis on how similar June and Day are despite their different backgrounds. June has a lot more agency than your average uptown girl, but I was missing the conflict that could have come from that quarter. Wouldn’t June and Day have conflicting worldviews? Wouldn’t they butt heads over more than just misunderstandings?

There are two more books in the series, which hopefully explore their dynamic more. Legend has a satisfying ending, but certainly leaves enough mysteries unsolved and wrongs un-righted to fuel more stories.

Book Review: The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps

Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, like many epic fantasies, is structured around a journey. A caravan of merchants and hired mercenaries must travel through a dangerous jungle to reach a distant city. Demane, one of the soldiers, is descended from a race of gods who have abandoned the world. Demane never felt like he fit in with ordinary people, but he’s afraid that using his godly powers at full strength will isolate him even more.

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There are strong themes about feeling foreign and fitting in, underscored by the use of language. The default is similar to African-American English, but there’s a smattering of French- and Spanish-inspired dialects. It’s implied that Demane was highly educated in his home country, but he has difficulty expressing himself in other tongues.

Demane is able to be himself with the two characters who know the whole truth about his origins. Cumalo, his best friend, is another soldier from his native region. Isa, his lover, is another demigod. When a hyper-intelligent, magic-using, man-eating tiger starts stalking the caravan through the jungle, Demane knows he can use his powers to protect his friends and his beloved. He also knows that in doing so, he risks losing his own humanity.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is just over 200 pages, which is short for a fantasy. Novels in this genre tend to run longer, because the readers need to be introduced to an unfamiliar world and new systems of magic. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps doesn’t waste words explaining where we are and how the magic works. The reader has to learn on their feet.

This book is refreshing because it doesn’t over-explain. In between chapters are little excerpts of the imagined world’s culture—letters, literature, songs— but those mostly served to tease me with a picture of the wider world. There are footnotes throughout, but they tend to be emotional asides rather than information.

Honestly, I’d be hard pressed to really explain how the world operates, and I’m okay with that. A lot of my favorite books or series don’t make all their rules of magic obvious right away. They reward multiple readings. A second or third time through, I can catch things that I didn’t understand the first time. My imagination can fill in the gaps. I knew when I was halfway through The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps that I was going to want to read it again someday, which is a great feeling.

The brevity of the novel also gives it a fairy tale quality. I didn’t have enough time to get acquainted with the emotional lives of the supporting characters, and even Demane feels distant at times, more of an archetype than a person. That’s not a bad thing—I do love fairy tales—but I know it’s not everyone’s thing.

There is a notable lack of female characters. The men think of absent wives and girlfriends, and in flashbacks, we get “Auntie,” Demane’s mysterious goddess-mentor. A couple of female prostitutes show up early on, but it’s hardly representation. Strangely, this didn’t bother me too much. Maybe I would rather have female characters be absent than have them only representing tired stereotypes. Maybe I’ve been reading lots of books with interesting, creative, and badass girl and women characters lately, so this seems like the shrug-worthy exception rather than the eye-roll inducing rule.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is a great way to dip into some swords-and-sorcery without committing to a long series, or even to a very long book. It’s a standalone that hints at so many more possibilities, a story rooted in tradition that doesn’t lean on clichés. The road is dark and dangerous, but in the end, the journey is worth it.

Valentine’s Day Reads

Happy Valentine’s Day! I had toyed with the idea of doing a whole post about romance novels in honor of the holiday, but there’s just way too much there for me to parse. If you Google “romance novels” the results that come up are everything from Jane Austen to Nicholas Sparks to E.L. James. Who even knows, anymore?

The term “romance novel” conjures up images of the boxes labeled “free books” that used to crop up around the English building in college. Freshman year my best friend and I raided one for the cheesiest covers. We spent the night in her room skimming for a page with the word “throbbing” and doing dramatic readings. (Important Note: We were totally invited to go to a party that night but we had to get up early for a class the next day. BEING RESPONSIBLE IS COOL.)

Throbbing aside, I really don’t have a problem with romance novels. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any super good ones lately. Here’s a little sample of what I have been reading to get myself in the Valentine’s Day mood:

Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances

Georgette Heyer started writing meticulously researched historical novels in the 1920s and continued until her death in 1974. Her romances, usually set in England or France in the late 18th century, established a new genre. There have been countless imitators since, but Heyer’s work holds up remarkably well.

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I picked up my first one, The Convenient Marriage, after reading this charming piece by Garth Nix about getting hooked on Heyer when he was twelve and recovering from bronchitis. I recently finished These Old Shades, which is set in France under Louis XV. The Duke of Avon takes in Léon, a street urchin, to be his page. Leon turns out to be Léonie, and romance ensues. I’m a shameless fan of cross-dressing plots, so I was obviously all in for this. There’s also lots of revenge, intrigue, and adventure to go with the romance.

Love Poems, Nikki Giovanni

I didn’t recognize Nikki Giovanni’s name when I bought this collection, but I realized after reading that I’ve seen several of these poems in anthologies—“I Wrote a Good Omelet” for one. The poems in the volume are approachable and fun to read, and they represent Giovanni at many different stages of her life. They’re all love poems, but what’s celebrated here is much more than romantic love.

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“The Only True Lovers Are Chefs or Happy Birthday, Edna Lewis” is all about the great cooks who pass their love along in recipes. Giovanni writes to her mother and her son, to Langston Hughes and Tupac Shakur. History, both personal and global, is present throughout. “And Yeah…This Is A Love Poem (October 16, 1995)” imagines the Million Man March through the eyes of a single participant. While some of the rhymes are cute enough for a greeting card, every poem is heartfelt and thought provoking. As of this writing, it’s still only $1.99 for Kindle, if you do that sort of thing.

Fanfiction

During the years I was in a long-distance relationship, I had a tradition for any Valentine’s Day that I had to spend away from my boyfriend: I’d get a pint of ice cream and read some fanfiction. Fanfic fills the same spiritual niche as romance novels in a lot of ways: the stories usually focus on the development of a relationship, so they’re naturally character-driven. Both genres are also mainly written and read by women. One thing I think fanfic has over published romance novels: fanfic writers include a header that lets you know what you’re getting into with their story, including a summary and a rating. No one stumbles across anything sexually explicit that they didn’t want to read, and no one slogs through a ton of pages waiting for the “good parts” only to be rewarded with a tasteful fade-to-black. Quality varies, of course, but there’s fic out there that’s better written than some traditionally published books.

That’s what I’ve been up to! Anyone else have any favorite romances or Valentine’s Day traditions? I love you all, and don’t forget to hit up the drugstore for cheap candy tomorrow.

Audiobook Review: All These Things I’ve Done

I read a lot of dystopian fiction. It’s one of those things that I just eat up, ever since I read The Giver in fifth grade. I’m happy to say that Gabrielle Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done is hands down the best dystopian novel I’ve read since The Hunger Games.

Previously, I had read only one of Gabrielle Zevin’s books, Elsewhere. It’s not a dystopia, but I did like it very much. I recommend Elsewhere to people who liked The Five People You Meet In Heaven because it’s also about the afterlife, but with more of a YA slant.

Not actually the audiobook cover, but I think I prefer this one.
Not actually the audiobook cover, but I think I prefer this one.

I picked up All These Things I’ve Done as an audiobook. Ilyana Kadushin gives a wonderful reading. The first person narration is the perfect mix of precocious teen and frightened, weary young woman. The interpretation of the dialog is spot on as well. Kadushin gives each character has a unique and consistent voice.

I tend to like character-driven stories, but I’m not immune to the allure of a really good science fiction concept. All These Things I’ve Done is delightful in that it has both.

First, the concept: The year is 2082. The United States is in economic shambles. Gas, water, paper, and other resources Americans once took for granted are strictly rationed. Crime is rampant. A recent administration decided that the solution was a new prohibition. Instead of alcohol, now coffee and chocolate have been banned. There’s a healthy black market in both, of course (more on that in a minute). Rebellious teens drink at coffee speakeasies.

Then, the character: The novel is narrated by sixteen-year-old Anya Balanchine. As I listened, I started to think of Anya’s character, and her character arc, as having three different layers. At one level, she’s a high school student. She hangs out with her friends, tries out for school play, and complains about the cafeteria food.

Once Anya comes home, though, she’s the caretaker for her two siblings and her ailing grandmother. There are a few helpful people, like the family’s lawyer, who step in when things get tough, but the day-to-day stuff is all on Anya.

What put her in this situation? Anya’s father was a crime boss, head of the Russian mafia in New York. Chocolate and coffee are still legal in Europe and Asia, so people with family connections there can make big money on the black market. Both Anya’s parents were killed because of her father’s work. Now, years after their deaths, Anya is working hard to distance herself from the Balanchine crime family. It’s not easy when the media wants to paint her as a mob princess and her criminal relatives come by the apartment to drop off cases of contraband chocolate.

As hard as Anya works to keep these three aspects of her life separate, there is inevitable overlap and complication. There are fights brewing—between the mob and the new assistant DA (who wants to clean up the city), between competing crime families, and even within the Balanchine family itself. Anya is drawn into it all against her will, but she fights to protect the people she cares about and keep her siblings together.

Anya is scrappy and unromantic, and I love her for it. She’s street-wise, a product of her upbringing. She loved her father. She strives to emulate his sense of honor, duty, and loyalty, but she doesn’t want to follow his footsteps into a life of crime.

There’s a big cast of supporting characters, both inside and outside the family. I would cheerfully read a spinoff about Anya’s grandmother, Galina. Even though she spends All These Things I’ve Done confined to her bed, it’s hinted at that she used to be pretty high up in the ranks of the family, with all of the adventures and misdeeds that implies. I also really liked Anya’s love interest, Win. He’s the exact sort of adorkable boy that I would have been into at sixteen, and watching his romantic idealism clash with Anya’s wide pragmatic streak feels very real. Did I mention Win is the son of the assistant DA? Star-crossed indeed.

This book has some pretty heavy sections dealing with death and loss. You could probably guess that, since the protagonist is an orphan, but I wasn’t prepared for the Anya’s grief when it hit. She spends so much of the book holding her emotions in and caring for other people. When she falls apart, it’s shattering. Anyone who’s lost a loved one will see some of themselves in Anya or her siblings.

I had a hard time finding anything to be dissatisfied with here. Every hole I thought I could poke was filled in. Checkhov’s guns abound; all are fired by the last act. Sometimes the dialogue seems overly formal, but maybe tradition-obsessed mobsters and ultra-smart teenagers are a narrative justification. It might not have rung false at all if I’d been reading instead of listening. Thanks to the title I’ve had The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” stuck in my head more than usual lately, but that’s less of complaint and more of an observation.

All These Things I’ve Done is the first in a trilogy, and I will definitely be seeking out the next one. Definitely recommended for anyone who loves 20-minutes-in-the-future dystopian or speculative fiction, especially with kick-ass girl heroes.

 

 

 

 

2016 Resolutions, Part 2: Gender

On Monday, I talked about how I had a hard time tallying up the authors that I read in 2015. A little bit of it was just a numbers issue, and my legendary failure to be any good with math. Some of it was heavier, like assigning a race and gender to each author.

There’s the question of books by multiple authors, or books that have authors but also illustrators contributing. For example, last winter I read Let It Snow, a collection of novellas by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. Is that two ticks in the women’s column and one in the men’s? Is it three ticks in the white column, or just one? I read multiple books by some writers. Do I count them more than once? Am I tracking books, or people? I hadn’t come up with any of these answers in advance.

No matter how you count it, I came up with a very small number of non-white authors. I talked about my resolution to read more racially diverse authors in Monday’s post. Today I’d like to examine my relationship to gender and how it impacts my reading.

When I was doing my tally, I assumed I would be able to discern gender from the author’s name, their picture, their pronouns, or a combination of the three, but that isn’t always true. For one thing, there’s a history of female authors writing under male or ambiguously gendered pen names. At one time, it was because writing was considered a masculine profession. These days, it’s because a book with a woman’s name on it is more likely to be considered just for girls or women, whereas a book written by a man is for everybody. I am rolling my eyes super hard at this idea as I write, but the bias exists. Just ask Joanne Rowling.

Then there’s the fact that not everyone fits into the gender binary. For all I know, some of these people might identify with a gender that’s different from the one I would assign to their name or picture. Presentation and pronouns might give me some hints, but who am I to say for sure?

At the end of my not-so-scientific book tally, about two-thirds of the books I read last year were written by women, the other third by men. Not nearly as drastic a difference as the racial one, and not something I see the need to address. I’m sure there were other years when I read more men than women, and I will probably have those years again. Once I really started to think about gender, though, I realized a concerning absence. To my knowledge, none of the books I read were written by a transgender or genderqueer author.

I say “to my knowledge,” because I can’t know for sure. There are post-transition people who choose never to come out to the general public. They just want to live their lives, and I respect that. But there are trans authors who are out, and I didn’t read them last year. Looking back, I didn’t even read any trans stories written by cis authors. In 70 books, I can think of only four that featured characters who were trans or nonbinary. There was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-them side character, a genderfluid god, a murdered trans soldier, and a villain who uses their magical ability to swap genders as a method of disguise. Not great representation. I can find better.

I’ve lived my whole life feeling secure in my identity first as a girl, and then as a woman. I won’t say it was always comfortable, or that I didn’t struggle with femininity, because it wasn’t and I have. But I lived with the knowledge that this is who and what I am supposed to be. The gender I was assigned at birth “stuck,” as one of my professors in college liked to put it. That has afforded me undeniable privilege. At a glance, people assume I am a woman. They use my preferred pronouns automatically. People I’ve just met don’t ask me uncomfortable questions about my genitals. The same, unfortunately, isn’t true for trans people.

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record here, but part of why I read is so I will grow in empathy. Reading is the fastest, easiest way to ensure that I get out of my own head and into someone else’s for a part of every day. It’s important that I seek out people who have had different experiences from mine.

 

Now, how do I translate this into a plan of action? I’ve already said I’m going to read 35 books by authors of color this year. If I pick a smaller number of transgender authors, does that look like I’m placing less value on their experiences? I don’t want to do that, it’s not fair and it’s not my job. The whole point of this experiment is to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I’m not sure assigning myself a number, and then patting myself on the back when I reach it, is the best way to do that. Then again, having a quota does force me to actively seek out more diverse literature…

I have no answers. For now, let’s say that I’d like to read more trans authors, and more trans narratives, this year, and leave it at that.

How are your reading resolutions going? Found anything new or exciting yet? Do you have any favorite books by trans or genderqueer authors to recommend? A quick google found me this Buzzfeed list, which seems like a not-terrible place to start.

2016 Resolutions, Part 1: Race

On Friday, I wrote about the reading challenge I set for myself in 2015, and about the books I read last year. I mentioned that I tried to get a count of authors by race and gender, but after a lot of tally marks and frustration, I gave up. Not only was it complicated, it didn’t feel productive.

I’ll talk about gender on Wednesday, but for now let me focus on race. While doing my count, if I wasn’t certain of an author’s race, I would Google them. It’s usually (not always) possible to figure out if a person is white from a picture, which is what I started off doing. Before long, looking at my own notes started to bother me. I had a column marked “White” and one marked “POC” (people of color). I might as well say that there are only two races, “white” and “not white.” Most of the authors I read are American, so the first line of their Wikipedia page isn’t likely to divulge their heritage in great detail. Names can be misleading, too. I think the one case that made me realize how reductive I was being was Lisa See, who wrote a book set in China and has a Chinese-sounding surname. In pictures, she appears to be white. But on her website she writes about her Chinese grandparents and her efforts to bridge Chinese and American cultures. People are more than a check mark.

Here’s my dilemma, then, as a reader. I am white. I grew up in a mostly-white community, where white teachers and librarians and friends and relatives gave me books written by other white people to read. I read those books and recommended them to my friends, who were also white. For a long time, all of my favorite authors looked like me, and I didn’t realize there was a problem with that, or really even notice it, until I was in my twenties.

At the risk of sounding super corny, reading is supposed to expand our horizons. It’s supposed to teach us empathy. I don’t need every book to shake apart my whole worldview, but it should make me think a little bit. If I only read people who look and live like me, that’s not going to happen.

Even though my tracking system was flawed, I was able to pick out a few things about my reading in 2015. Of the 70 books I finished, about 60 were written by white authors. I can’t ignore a discrepancy that large, so how to deal with it?

There were a lot of interesting pieces around in early 2015 written by people who had stopped reading white, male, cis, or straight authors, or some combination of the above, for a year or more. There’s a pretty good summary of that phenomenon here. I admire that dedication, but I’m not sure I could do it. I’m better at additive goals, exercise more instead of eat less, for example. Telling me to do or have none of something is usually a good recipe for making me want that thing more; just ask my Catholic upbringing and all the chocolate I “gave up” for Lent. Also I haven’t read the new John Irving book yet, and there’s no way I’ll make it all year without caving on that.

That said, my proposed resolution: I will finish 35 books written by authors of color in 2016.

It’s not perfect. I’m still not satisfied with the idea of lumping together all people of color into one “non-white” category. But I feel like I have to start somewhere, and this is it. I would have put less thought into it if I wasn’t blogging about my reading life, for sure. I am really grateful to everyone who is reading right now. You’re all keeping me accountable, just by behind here.

What are your book resolutions this year? Are you going to read more books? Are you doing a “Read Harder” challenge like the ones at BookRiot or Panels? Can you rec me some of your favorite diverse literature? Tell me everything in the comments.