2015 is drawing to a close, and this year I am happy to report that I have successfully completed both of the challenges I set for myself in January, and also met the stretch goal that I set for myself at the end of Q3.
2015 Goodreads Challenge
At the beginning of the year, I set my reading metre for 116 books, a modest decrease from the 130 books I read in 2014. I did this in order to ensure that I would be able to focus on my second goal, which related to the type of books I would be reading, rather than the quantity. However, my reading seems to have its own natural rhythm, and I am ending the year with 131 books read, putting me at 113% of my goal. Fortunately this didn’t prevent me from achieving my primary reading goal for the year.
After flunking my reading challenges in 2014, I decided that setting a meaningful goal might help keep me on track. Around this time, Diversity in YA and We Need Diverse Books were publishing posts that counted the number of diverse books on bestseller lists. This prompted curiousity about my own stats, and after crunching my 2014 numbers, I concluded that only about 10% of the books I read that year were by minority authors. That didn’t seem like enough to me, so I decided to challenge myself to read more books by authors who are members of visible minorities. Though I knew this challenge would be more about the experience of reading the books, and hopefully discovering new authors to love, I set a numerical goal simply to ensure accountability. I decided to aim for 25% of the books I read to be by diverse authors in 2015.
By the Numbers
In Q4, I read 31 books, 15 of which qualified for the challenge, or about 48%. I’ve been consistently overshooting the 25% goal, partly because now that I am paying attention, I keep finding new and interesting books I want to read. I’ve even developed a bit of a backlog. However, I also realized that I need to be paying attention not just to what I read, but what I review, since I don’t write about every book I read. I reviewed 24 of the 31 books I read in Q4, and of those, 13 qualified for the challenge, or about 54%. Despite the fact that, as the end of the year approached, I was itching to just relax and just read whatever I felt like, I stayed the course and finished the challenge strong.
By the end of Q3, it was pretty clear that unless I just quit the challenge entirely, I was going to exceed my original goals. So I decided to set a stretch goal of having 40% of the total books I read this year be by diverse authors. Interestingly, 40% is a number I originally contemplated at the beginning of the year, since it is fairly close to the percentage of the US population that is non-white. However, I thought it might be a little bit overambitious. When I tallied the final numbers for the year, 56 of the 131 books I read were part of the challenge, or just under 43%. Although I didn’t set a stretch goal for reviews, I also tabulated those numbers, and of the 95 books I reviewed this year, 49 qualified, or just about 52%!
This reading challenge was both easier and harder than I thought it was going to be. On the easy side, I didn’t have to force myself to read anything that didn’t pique my interest simply to meet a goal. Once I started actively paying attention to diversity when I was browsing, I was easily able to find titles that interested me. Diverse authors are writing in every genre and field out there, and finding them is often as simple as taking a peek at the author photo or noticing their name. These aren’t perfect heuristics, but they are readily available in most cases. And once I started buying and logging these new books, the algorithms on Goodreads and other sites began responding with similar recommendations. Nor did I have to compromise on quality. In fact, six of my top ten reads this year were books that qualified for the challenge, and several more were on the short-list I compiled as I tried to wrangle it down to just ten. The hard part was really just fighting against my own laziness, and the privilege I have to not pay attention if I so desire.
If you’re thinking about undertaking your own diverse reading challenge, the best tip I can offer you is to build a stockpile, by which I mean actively buy and borrow diverse books so that you have options on hand whenever it is time to pick up a new book. You don’t need a big budget to do this; it can simply mean giving yourself permission to buy diverse books when you see a deal of the day. But actually, you don’t need anything more than your library card. Earlier in the year, I reserved a dozen books by diverse authors, and then suspended the holds. My library allows you to set a date when the holds will reactivate, by which time I should have hit the top of the list, and the book would be immediately available. I set it up so that one hold would become active each month, ensuring that at least one diverse book would land in my lap every month. I also used social obligation; I made diverse books the theme of the year for the book club I lead once a month. I hadn’t picked out all the titles in January, but I made sure it was something I would have to think about each quarter as I chose the next batch of titles. If you do some of the leg work in advance when you have the time and energy to dedicate to it, everything is much easier when all you want to do at the end of the day is grab your book and settle in.
How did your 2015 challenges go? Have you ever undertaken a diverse reading challenge? Would you?