Thursday, January 24, 2019

2018 Reading Assessment, the past is prologue, pretty much literally

A few years back, I began tracking my reading--both prose and comics--and the following year I added movies watched to the list, as well.  I was interested not only in seeing how many books I read in a given year, but also curious about any trends and tendencies within my reading habits, in order to see where I could improve with regard to reading more broadly--in topic and genre and, most importantly, in authors read, i.e. writers other than white men.

It was interesting and informative, and my expectation of a bias toward authors who look like me was born out in the data.  It makes sense, especially if you're not thinking too consciously about what books you're choosing to read, which are mainly based on what you've read and enjoyed before.  And there is nothing wrong with that, you should read what you like, obviously.  But, if you only stick with what you've read before, you are cutting yourself off from a wealth of new, imaginative, brilliant, moving works of fiction and nonfiction that you might otherwise never realize are even out there.

With that all in mind, I have worked to broaden the range of books I read.  In the few years I've kept a log (through an excel spreadsheet, which allows me to quickly tally the books read in three categories:  novels, non-fiction, other (encompassing poetry, plays, short story collections, and whatever else doesn't fall easily under the first two), I have found myself moving away from the comfortable reading niche where I'd lain my head.  I have read more non-fiction, more work by female authors, more work by authors of color, more plays, more poetry, more of most everything, and it's been amazing.  I've "discovered" the likes of Colson Whitehead, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amiri Baraka, Leslie Marmon Silko, Margaret Atwood, Banana Yoshimoto, and Toni Morrison (Wow! Morrison is a writing God), among many others.  It's been eye-opening, and I'm glad I did this.

Before embarking on this, much of what I read were novels (and occasionally short story collections), and a good chunk of that was science fiction, and much, if not all, of that was written by the giants of the field (primarily men).  This past year I read more non-fiction than novels, and only one fewer book in the "other" category than in the combined novels and non-fiction.  It was a good year, and rather than feeling as if I missed out on something, I felt like I'd gained so much more.  I would encourage anyone reading this to do the same, read harder by reading outside your own self-proscribed box.  I don't how you would regret it.


next:  I will actually write about the books I read last year.