We Need Diverse Books

I know that is a groundbreaking title there. Anyway, this post a personal illustration of connecting with book characters because they are like me. Before anyone else can point it out – yes, I am a white guy. yes, I am white, heterosexual male. yes, there are many books about people like me.  This post is not about me wanting more books about me. I’ve always agreed that we need more diverse books. I can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with this. Kids need to be able to read a book about a person who is like them. I always knew this intellectually. My last two books have been a good illustration of how a connection to the characters improves the reading experience.

I recently read The Serpent King by Jess Zentner. It takes place in rural Tennessee and in the authors words

“I wanted to write about young people who struggle to live lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten and unglamorous place. Who wonder what becomes of dreams once they cross the county line. This book is my love letter to those young people and anyone who has ever felt like them, no matter where they grew up.”

I grew up in a place that could be considered forgotten and unglamorous. A small town where many kids dream of escaping to a bigger and brighter world. A small town where some days it seems like your dreams will die. I felt completely connected to the characters and could see a little bit of myself in them. Because of this, the book meant more to me and I was more emotionally invested in the story.

I am now reading Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. I like the book, but I don’t feel the same connection to the character because I am not a Mexican-American girl living in California. A Mexican-American girl will feel that connection here, but not necessarily in The Serpent King.  It’s important for books like Gabi to exist for that girl. She does not have the plethora of books about people like her like I’ve had my entire life.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was growing up a reader and finding myself in all of the books I read(like the creepy clown in It, for example) and even though I realized it as an adult, it didn’t really sand out to me until I read these two books back to back.

I do think it is important for me to read books about people different from me, but sometimes it is really nice to read a book that feels like home. Everyone should have that opportunity.

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Some Random Stuff from My Recent Days

I’m still struggling to finish a blog post. I either discover I don’t have a lot to say, or what I am saying is too boring or whiny for me to post. So, I will bore you with some stuff from my life over the last couple of weeks.

I went to a pre-retirement planning seminar. I’m still a little less than 8 years away from being eligible to retire, but I wanted to go just to get an idea of what to be thinking about over those years. Unfortunately, I did not find a loophole that will allow me to retire early, so I guess I need stop thinking about it for a while so I don’t get depressed.

We went to our last back to school night ever this week. It was a nice, short night because my daughter has a partial schedule. While I’m not looking forward to both of my kids being gone, I am looking forward to being done with the public school system. There’s already so much drama from the school about students not being where they are supposed to be during “pride period”(a time to go to clubs or get academic help from teachers). I agree with my kid. If they would just punish the kids not doing the right thing there wouldn’t be such a problem. I have never agreed with punishing the collective due to the actions of a few.

I finally finished the book that ended good reading streak. The next book I read, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, was very good and got me back to where I wanted to read constantly.  Now I’m done and hoping the next book won’t slow me down again. I probably need to take a break between my assigned books. They all seem to have death in them. That can be tough.

Finally, we are one week away from the trip to the Philippines. I’m not looking forward to 24 hours on planes and in airports, but I’m sure the experience will be worth it.

My Year in Reading 2016

I really didn’t think I would make it to 100 books this year. I went through a stretch when it was difficult for me to focus on reading. I did list 10 best books and some honorable mentions, but it was harder this year. I did more audio books this year. There will be fewer of those this year since my commute is shorter and I won’t be driving alone to Kentucky.I set my goal at 100 again, but my real goal is to continue to try to diversify my reading and to read at least one classic I have not read before.

Top ten books read in no particular order

  • The Winter Family by Cifford Jackman
  • I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
  • The Fireman by Joe Hill
  • I Must Say by Martin Short
  • Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
  • End of Watch by Stephen King
  • But What If We’re Wrong by Chuck Klosterman
  • The Whistler by John Grisham
  • Bazaar of Bad Dreans by Stephen King
  • The End by Charlie Higson

Honorable Mention

  • Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth
  • Kraken by China Mieville
  • Ms Marvel vol 1 by G Willow Wilson
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  • Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt
  • Let the Right One In by John Lindquist

Book I would most recommend

The Fireman by Joe Hill. It is very long, but it is worth the time.

Worst book I finished

If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher

Book I Dustbunnied

None this year. I would have stopped reading the above book, but it was for book club and I always finish book club books no matter how bad they are.

Number of books read: 101

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 31304 – This is wrong. They have one book listed as 6 pages and I know it was around 200, but this is easier than trying to add them all up.

 

My Year in Reading 2015

Top ten books read in no particular order

  • Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  • The Girl With All The Gifts by MR Carey
  • The Universe vs Alex Wood by Gavin Extence
  • Positive by David Wellington
  • Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
  • Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  • Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Honorable Mention

  • The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  • Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
  • Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
  • Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler

Book I would most recommend

Either Station Eleven or Positive. Both end of the word type books. Positive has zombies.

Worst book I finished

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

Book I Dustbunnied

The Deep by Nick Cutter

Number of books read: 106

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 37171

Exactly the same number of books as last year and less than 100 pages more than lat year. The biggest difference is that I read fewer books by authors just because I’ve read all of their stuff and read more books by authors new to me.

I Have an Author “Type”

There is a study out there that says men like to read male authors and women prefer to read female authors. I have never analyzed my reading habits and author gender. I do know a lot of my favorite authors are male. I do, however, have quite a few female authors I read regularly. I like to joke that I sometimes have the reading habits of a teenage girl. I’m too lazy to do a count, but I could see my total skewing more toward the male authors. I don’t think this study says more than that people like to read what they know and that people feel more comfortable with the voice of someone with whom they relate. That’s why the push for more diverse titles is important, especially for kids. All kids need to be able to find books about someone like them.

I was thinking about this last night after I was working on a list of books for a class I will be leading at work. It is a list of good adult fiction for teens. I took many of the books of the Alex Awards list and added a bunch from my personal experience. As I was asking coworkers for some titles to add to the list, I mentioned that I needed to add some diversity, because although I didn’t know what most of the authors looked like I was pretty sure they were a little too similar. I googled the names of the authors and discovered that they were more alike than I realized. If I just looked at the author photos, I could assume that they were all related. Apparently, I don’t just have a thing for British and Irish authors, I I have thing for British, Irish and ginger authors. It was really weird. I can now add diversity to the list of my reading goals for 2015.

My Year in Reading 2014

Top ten books read in no particular order

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Winger by Andrew Smith
The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs
Revival by Stephen King
Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larrsen
Seven for a Secret by Lindsay Faye

Honorable Mention

Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman
The Three by Sarah Lotz
Trouble by Non Pratt
The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce
Parasite by Mira Grant

Worst book I finished

Someone Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

Book I Dustbunnied

Wolf by Lorenzo Carcaterra

Number of books read: 106

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 37067

I have to say that this was not a banner year in reading for me. Too many mediocre books. It was hard to come up with the 15 best. I need to be more selective with my reading next year.

Changing my reading and tv habits

Each year I set a reading goal. That reading goal has always been a quantity goal. Usually 100 books. I always meet that goal and this year I am ahead of my goal. I sometimes add in a page number goal. I’ve been thinking that I need to change the type of goal I set next year. I read a lot of books that I finish, but don’t love. They aren’t bad, but they are forgettable. I read a lot of authors out of habit even though they write the same book over and over again. I can read a Stuart a woods book in a day, but it’s not different than the last Stuart Woods book I read. I don’t discover new books anymore because I’m reading through my books from my reserve list instead of browsing the shelves. Many of those books are on my reserve list because they are written by authors I read regularly. Some of these authors are still consistently good their books might be in my top ten list for the year. Some of them are like the aforementioned Stuart Woods. They are consistent and boring and after I finish I wonder why I still read them. It is time for me to stop reading based on habit and start discovering new books and authors.

I do the same thing with TV. It’s really hard for me to give up on a former favorite show once it is not as good as it once was. Watch them becomes a chore. Something I’m doing out of habit not because I’m still enjoying it. I think in addition to habit, this also stems from my misguided belief that the show will return to its former level of entertainment. This never actually happens. If I can cut the cord on some of these shows, I will probably find time to read some of the new books mentioned above. I need to remember quality is better than quantity.