Is reading diversely one of your 2024 goals? (It should!)

January 2, 2024 | General

The background is a teal texture. At the top, it says "Let's talk about your bookish goals". Below, there's a white paper tear, and a graphic of a woman stepping on books, with an arrow signalling her direction forward.

Happy New Year, everyone! I can almost feel the excitement in the air during January, wafting from every person motivated to make this year the one they achieve their resolutions. In bookish spaces, those resolutions include how many or which books people are going to read that year. Will they read 50 books or 100? Will they read the popular book with the dragons, or the hyped celebrity memoir? But what I’m really wondering is how intentional our reading goals are. For example, is reading diversely on your bucket list for 2024? Because I think it should be! Let’s see what it looks like to be purposeful in our reading habits.

Do you feel good about your bookish goals?

As a writer who discusses politics and policies almost every day in my day job, I’ve learned that self-awareness and agency go hand in hand. We need to know why we do the things we do, and decide if that’s how we want to keep going. That is why, for instance, I believe that the romance books we choose to read are both political expression and action. Whether that choice is conscious or passive, it still has consequences in the world. One example is that, by continuing to favor the same authors, it gives publishers the feedback, “I’m good with things just as they are, I don’t need to give other kinds of books a chance.”

Often in bookish spaces, well-meaning folks promise they will be reading diversely moving forward, after something big happens out in the world: Black Lives Matter, Asian hatred, genocide in the Middle East, appalling Goodreads Awards… But what ends up happening is that those diverse books get added to people’s TBR lists, and that’s where they stay. Clearly, it’s not enough to have good values and intention! What books are you actually reading?

We can assume we’re acting in alignment with our values if we feel good about the books we read in 2023. Of course, this only tells us if we like what is happening; it doesn’t mean our actions have no impacts in the world. If you don’t value diversity, for example, you will feel good about picking up whatever books look interesting, no second thoughts about it.

If you’re reading this blog post, I assume you value diversity. Do you feel good about how you’re interacting with content creators in bookish spaces? With the books you’re choosing to read?

Pick books outside your comfort zone!

An interesting question to ask ourselves is: do we care about growth? This is a topic where we can often check both our values and our perception of agency. We may value growth but, if we think that we don’t have the power to change things, we become passive. On the other hand, if we care about self-improvement and believe in our agency, we know we have choices. So, maybe we feel good about our reading behaviors! But if we truly care about growth and our values, we may choose to take a step further and pick books outside our comfort zone that are aligned with those goals.

One of my favorite creators, Sarah (@sarah_thebookishnerd on Instagram and TikTok), keeps careful stats that I love to spy on. She recently posted about how she plans to expand the diverse books she reads. Additionally, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Diverse Baseline Challenge, ran by Margherita (@themargherita.s) and Brittany (@bookish.millennial).

The diverse baseline challenge. Mission: Read a minimum of 3 books by BIPOC authors per month, for the entirety of 2024 (to make a minimum of 36 BIPOC books), in order to help form the habit of reading and supporting BIPOC books. @bookish.millennial & @themargherita.s

Keeping stats and joining challenges is one way to hold ourselves accountable to our reading goals!

Reading diversely is a choice

If you discover that your values and your actions don’t align, don’t let it discourage you. Change what you’re doing! Pay attention to how you interact with content online, as algorithms favor those who already have a big platform. If you want to make sure you find the right content, look up hashtags and follow diverse creators. It’s a great way to not only find books we wouldn’t have come across otherwise, but also to normalize a diverse feed. It also helps change the algorithms themselves, as who we follow and how we interact with accounts online feed back into the system.

Another way to be purposeful is to pay attention to the books to see if we’re currently reading diversely. Do you read a mix of indie and traditionally published? Is the┬ácast of your books diverse? Were the main characters written by authors of similar intersections to them? Are the authors from different backgrounds and identities than yours?

As a writer, I pay attention to these things in how I craft my books. It’s my belief that every writer should. Not only in terms of the stories we tell, but how we move in social spaces as well. In fact, every single actor in the publishing industry has responsibility in shaping bookish spaces. I encourage you to look at your own spaces and find the ways in which you will impact them.