Looking Back on 2015: The Year of Reading Diversely

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Author: Asandra al'Terra

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2015 was a pretty great year of reading for me. I had set some simple goals: read 50 books, or 15,000 pages; read a maximum of 40% American authors, at least 40% non-white authors, and an even number of male and female authors; and complete the 2015 Read Harder challenge from Book Riot.

I’d decided to focus on diversity in reading for the year because of some devastating statistics. When I began my book spreadsheet in 2014, I started tracking author sex, race, and country of origin, and I realized my reading was painfully lopsided: 60% male; 85% white; 60% American. I’d enjoyed a lot of books that I’d read, but the stark numbers made me realize that I was only seeing one kind of story. After all, you can live a thousand lives through books – but if I only see a thousand lives through the eyes of one kind of person (a white, male American), how different will they really be? 2015 was my year to find out.

At the time of writing, I’ve completed 49 books, and I’m halfway through three more. I’ve almost succeeded in all of my goals: 56% female authors; 50% non-American authors; and 37% non-white authors. It’s not quite there, but I’m doing way better than I did before.

Most importantly, I feel like the quality of my reading has increased since 2014 – I remember far more of this year’s books fondly. This may be in part from more conscientious reading – thinking through how each book will fit in with my goals means it’s more likely I’ll select better books. In addition, I’ve developed a greater willingness to put down a book that isn’t doing it for me in the first dozen pages. Mostly, though, I think it’s from the change in perspective: I’ve seen so many stories told from unfamiliar perspectives that my life has been immensely enriched.

I’ve read Australian ghost stories; Finnish magical realism; Nigerian political satire; Filipino murder-mystery; and Chinese sci-fi. I’ve read a retelling of Snow White touching on racial issues; a story of illegal border crossing into the US from the perspective of a Mexican woman; and a crime thriller about Japanese bento box factory workers getting away with murder. Each of these was different from a book I’d read in a similar genre from more ‘mainstream’ authors, and each of them offered something new. Some of them were more successful than others, but the only book I truly regret reading was one that seemed so stupidly cliché next to the rest of this year’s books.

And, in case you’re curious: my 2015 year in reading is listed below.

1 -- Nnedi Okorafor -- Who Fears Death
2 -- Marisha Pessl -- Night Film
3 -- Alice Hoffman -- The Museum of Extraordinary Things
4 -- Okey Ndibe -- Arrows of Rain
5 -- Edith Wharton -- The Demanding Dead
6 -- Deepti Kapoor -- A Bad Character
7 -- Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen -- The Rabbit Back Literature Society
8 -- Tim Johnston -- Descent
9 -- Rebecca Scherm -- Unbecoming
10 -- Cecilia Ekbäck -- Wolf Winter
11 -- Jonathan Aycliffe -- Naomi's Room
12 -- Paula Hawkins -- The Girl on the Train
13 -- Akimitsu Takagi -- The Tattoo Murder Case
14 -- Natsuo Kirino -- Out
15 -- John Harwood -- The Ghost Writer
16 -- Richard Lloyd Parry -- People Who Eat Darkness
17 -- V.E. Schwab -- Vicious
18 -- Chigozie Oboma -- The Fishermen
19 -- Yan Lianke -- The Four Books
20 -- Liu Cixin -- The Three-Body Problem
21 -- Mat Johnson -- Loving Day
22 -- Yuri Herrera -- Signs Preceding the End of the World
23 -- Elizabeth Hall -- Miramont's Ghost
24 -- V.E. Schwab -- A Darker Shade of Magic
25 -- Yoko Ogawa -- Revenge
26 -- Daphne DuMaurier -- Jamaica Inn
27 -- Marie Rutkoski -- The Winner's Curse
28 -- Marie Rutkoski -- The Winner's Crime
29 -- Judith Claire Mitchell -- A Reunion of Ghosts
30 -- Barton Swaim -- The Speechwriter
31 -- Jon Krakauer -- Missoula
32 -- Jill Leovy -- Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America
33 -- Helen Oyeyemi -- Boy, Snow, Bird
34 -- Vincent Bugliosi -- Helter Skelter
35 -- Libba Bray -- The Diviners
36 -- Libba Bray -- Lair of Dreams
37 -- Jocelyn Sauciere -- And The Birds Rained Down ← BEST OF 2015!
38 -- Bryan Stevenson -- Just Mercy
39 -- Robert Jordan -- The Eye of the World
40 -- Albert Camus -- The Stranger
41 -- Robert Jackson Bennett -- City of Stairs
42 -- Leigh Bardugo -- Six of Crows
43 -- Margee Kerr -- Scream
44 -- Robert Galbraith -- Career of Evil
45 -- Hanya Yanagihara -- A Little Life
46 -- Brandon Sanderson -- Mistborn: The Final Empire
47 -- F.H. Batacan -- Smaller and Smaller Circles
48 -- Kim Thúy -- Ru
49 -- N.K. Jemisin -- The Shadowed Sun

I’ll be switching up my goals a bit next year, and I can only hope that the new year is as successful as 2015.

How was your 2015 in reading? Did you have any goals, and did you meet them? What was your favourite of this year? Tell us in the comments!

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