I made a New Years’ resolution in 2016 to diversify my reading — not by genre, but by author. I had realized that in 2015, of 26 books that I read, 22 were written by white men — an astounding 85%. So I had a goal to flip that percentage in 2016. Here’s how I did, in a quick summary of books:
- Golden Fool (The Tawny Man Trilogy #2), by Robin Hobb
I love everything by Robin Hobb, and have loved every page of now 8 Fitz books by her. They’re true page-turners in the best meaning of that.
- Brooklyn, by Colm Toíbín
I hated this book. I read it because of reviews and the movie (which I also hated) … and I should’ve stopped about 20 pages in, but I just kept reading, alternately to see whether it would redeem itself (no) or what it felt like to hate-read an entire book (not good).
- Fool’s Assassin (Fitz & the Fool #1), by Robin Hobb
This new series, set when Fitz is much older, is heart-breaking for fans of the series and so, so good.
- Fool’s Quest (Fitz & the Fool #2), by Robin Hobb
- A Man In Love (My Struggle #2), by Karl Ove Knausgård
If my darkest inner voices were given public attention, perhaps they might sound like this. It is brutal honesty (although fictional? maybe? I hope? A devastating book.
- A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab
So! Much! Fun! I don’t know why I didn’t immediately get the next one in the series, except that I wanted to let Kell ruminate in my mind for a while, this was such a lovely tale.
- The Hidden Oracle (Trials of Apollo #1), by Rick Riordan
So, I’ve read all of the various Percy Jackson-related books to, and with the kids, so I got this one too — and the magic is gone, and Liam didn’t care and I regret reading this.
- Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2), by Ann Leckie
Onto book two, where the gender-fuck of the first book has become normalized and the characters, story and setting can truly shine. This is my favourite of the series.
- The Fifth Season (Broken Earth #1), by N. K. Jemisin
An amazing, different take on magic in a dystopian (future?) society. Possibly my favourite book of the entire year.
- The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
The buzziest book I read all year (an Oprah bookclub selection!) that totally held up despite the hype. I loved the magic-realism of the device of a real underground railroad, and it was heartbreaking and hard and beautiful. Contains the most gut-wrenching sentence I read all year (which, for spoiler reasons, I won’t share).
- The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2), by N. K. Jemisin
Not quite as good as The Fifth Season as it normalizes into a fairly standard fantasy/odyssey book, but still well-worth the journey if you love the characters as I do.
- Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3), by Ann Leckie
Read this as a meditation on the a nature of identity and empathy and, well, yeah. There’s so much going on in this book, in this series. It should probably be the subject of several academic think-pieces.
- The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman
I needed a Neil fix, and was getting on a plane, and this did the trick (It’s a solid habit to read one book by Neil Gaiman every single year, IMO). It’s all over the place. The best thing though is his unabashed love of Books, in all their forms, and the humans who write them. I added a dozen books, by a dozen authors, to my wishlist from reading this (NB: I’m still reading this. I have read a few sections between each of the rest of the books this year).
- A Heart so White, by Javier Marías (Translated by Margaret Jull Costa)
I struggled mightily with this book — It came highly recommended by my mum, who rarely is wrong about these things, and, much like reading Shakespeare, it takes a while to wrap your head around the language and format, but once I did, wow! I read it nearly twice over.
- Charmed Life (Chrestomanci #1), by Dianna Wynne Jones
Silly, simple fun. Ends before I was ready for it, but also definitely felt a little dated.
- Babylon’s Ashes (The Expanse #6), by James S. A. Corey
The best entry in the series since book 3. Either you love The Expanse, or you haven’t read it yet.
- The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1), by Ken Liu
I learned of Ken Liu through reading Cixin Liu, and, am so much the richer for it. This book deserves all the accolades it received, but, it took me a while to get through it, as I didn’t get fully into until about 100 pages in.
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1), by Becky Chambers
This book is sci-fi equivalent of a Belle & Sebastian album. It is lovely and twee, and not quite what I hoped it was. That being said, I immediately started reading the follow-up, so there you go.
- A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2), by Becky Chambers
The first book in the series was self-published — I don’t know if this one was, but it feels so much tighter that I wonder if it at least a new, better editor was found. A similar feel to the first one, only moreso, in all the right ways.
I fell way short of my goal for reading this year — I was aiming for 40 books, and didn’t even crack 20. Of 19, 6 were written by men, or 32% — which also fell way short of my goal of reading only 10% white men. But, a definite improvement over my previous habits. Noticeably, when browsing the Kobo store, the recommended books are much more diverse in authorship than they were prior to this.
I’m hoping for follow-ups from Robin Hobb, V. E. Schwab, N. K. Jemisin & Ken Liu this year, and will continue to try and diversify who I’m reading.
Also published on Medium.