Ten Books on My Fall TBR (Or, Getting My Diversity On)

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) asks us about books on our Fall TBR. I’ve had a particularly good reading experience so far this year. I haven’t been following any kind of plan. Typically a book pops into my head when I’m getting closer to the end of my current book, and that’s the one I pick up next. But sometimes, when we just follow our whims, we get caught in a rut. The kind of rut I’m talking about isn’t the kind where you don’t know what to read next and nothing satisfies. I’m talking about the exact opposite kind of rut—the kind that’s so easy, you never really think about getting out. It’s like having spaghetti for dinner every night (well, if you like spaghetti. I do. A lot.). It’s nutritious enough, satisfying, tasty. But probably you need a little variation, and you could pump up the nutrition a bit and still eat something yummy. Okay, enough with the food metaphors.

Basically, I had a pretty sad realization. When it comes to reading women authors, I do just fine. I’ve read 42 books so far this year, and 21 of them were by women (not counting the book I’m currently reading, which is also by a woman). But the diversity stops there. I’ve picked up exactly TWO books by by authors who aren’t white (Marlon James, Louise Erdrich). I have plenty of books on my TBR by non-white authors, so I have no excuse, really. Some of my choices were driven by picking up new books from authors I really like (Bonnie Nadzam, Megan Abbott, Maggie O’Farrell, Liz Moore, Ann Patchett). Some of my choices were driven by the fact that I like a good campus novel (The Headmaster’s Wife, The Pursuit of Cool, A Dual Inheritance). Some were driven by my desire to finally try and finish a series (The Story of a New Name and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay…Too much Ferrante for me all at once; I did not make it to book four). Some things, too many to mention, were just on sale, and some were physical books that have been sitting on my shelf for way too long.

So. Excuses, excuses. This needs to remedied. We all know I’m not great at reading from a list, but here are my top ten diverse reads for the fall, all picked from my current TBR or books I already own:

  1. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, Sunil Yapa
  2. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  3. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (I own this one)
  4. Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry
  5. The Turner House, Angela Flournoy (own this one)
  6. Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
  7. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  8. Slumberland, Paul Beatty (I know The Sellout is big this year  and up for the Booker, but I own Slumberland already)
  9. Long Division, Kiese Layman (another one I own)
  10. The Thief, Fuminori Nakamura (and another one I own)

I’m excited about all of these books, otherwise they wouldn’t be on my shelf/Kindle/TBR list. I know this list hardly makes a dent, and so many groups/nationalities aren’t even included. The thing is, it’s so easy not to pay attention, to pick up what everyone else is reading, to follow favorite authors, to stay in that comfy zone. Is this racism? I think probably it is. Not the kind that comes from a place of hatred or intentional exclusion, but certainly the insidious kind that comes from being very comfortable with seeing much of what you already know in the world reflected back at you and never thinking much about it. Time for me to wake up and fix it. This is a start.

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11 comments

  1. Excellent choices! I love Kiese Laymon in all his iterations — I feel like every time he writes something for the internet, I find it and include it in my biweekly links round-up. So great. And The Turner House is another one that I really liked, and didn’t necessarily expect to. I’m not wild about family sagas OR magical realism, but The Turner House super worked for me.

    Speaking as someone who used to read a disgracefully low percentage of books by nonwhite authors (which is partly a manifestation of racism, and also partly stems from the very-much-white-centric-ness of the publishing industry and what they publish and now they promote it) and now reads way more, it gets easier the more you do it. You end up finding favorite authors who aren’t white, blogs where people rec books by a diverse range of authors, and so forth and so on, and after a while it’s second nature. Promise! 🙂

  2. Jenny, I’ve been on a family saga kick, so The Turner House seemed right up my alley. As for Long Division, I bought it like three or four years ago. I read the beginning but then went on to something else, and I’m not sure why because I know I liked the voice. The thing is, I used to be much more conscious of reading broadly, and somewhere along the line I just got into a rut. I’ve never stopped adding books by non-white authors to my TBR, or even buying them–I just haven’t been choosing them. And I know I love Victor LaValle, Zadie Smith, ZZ Packer and so on. I never think, “No, I want a white author this time.” It just seems to be falling out that way in recent years, because I’m not really paying attention. Making this list helped remind me that I have a lot of diverse books that interest me, and I just need to make more of an effort for sure.

  3. Priscilla, I can so identify with this about the comfort zone. Before 2014, I was not conscious about my reading choices at all, other than choosing things that looked interesting and were heavily promoted by mainstream media book outlets. It wasn’t until I read Book Riot’s pieces on diversity in reading that I became aware of how unintentionally white my reading was. I’m doing better, but i still want to read even more diversely in 2017. Your list is terrific! I’ve read the Coates, Flournoy, and Yapa and they were all awesome.

  4. Laila, sorry for taking so long to respond! I used to be so aware of this kind of thing, but my awareness has definitely waned. I’m distracted by mood, or by something new and shiny that everyone else is reading, or I get on a kick with a certain author or theme…What I’d like is for it to be a habit, something I don’t think about at all. Hopefully someday. It’s shameful.

  5. You’re so right. It is easy to forget the importance of diversity in reading. I gravitate toward white males, and read wherever interest and whim take me. I should consider broadening my horizons, though I’m equally bad at following through with lists! 😉

  6. I’m very much the same when it comes to reading. This year I read two books by NK Jemisin, The Turner House (excellent) and Pleasantville by Attica Locke. There may be others. I really want to read Trevor Noah’s memoir. Oh, and I read Half of a Yellow Sun. Next year, more diversity!

  7. Curly Geek, I have Half a Yellow Sun and Americanah on my to-read wishlist. I tried to read Locke’s first one, Black Water, but the story just didn’t grab me and I never finished it. I would like to read Pleasantville, though. I heard Trevor Noah on Fresh Air and he was so impressive. He’s done a great job filling some big shoes on The Daily Show in a tough year, too.

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