Another quarter of the year is gone and summer is upon us. June in particular was a busy month for me, so I was anxious to check in on my challenges, worried that I may have let my attention slip and headed back into my old habits.
2015 Goodreads Challenge
At the beginning of the year, I set my reading meter to 116, planning to slow down and focus on my second goal. But unless I have more busy months like June, I’m currently on track to exceed last year’s total of 130 books. So far this year I have read 71 books, putting me at 61% complete only halfway through the year. However, if it means I end up reading even more diverse books, so much the better. But I was a little worried that my busy schedule might have distracted me from mindfully choosing my reads.
Inspired by the good work of the folks at We Need Diverse Books and Diversity in YA, at the end of 2014 I took a look at my stats for the year and found that only 10% of the books I read qualified. So for 2015, I specifically set my sights on reading more books by authors from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, an area where I felt I was particularly lagging. Knowing I would need to be able to measure my efforts, I set a goal to make sure that 25% of the books I read in 2015 would be by authors who were members of visible minorities.
Of the 31 books I read or listened to in Q2, 12 qualified for the challenge, working out to about 39% of my books, a slight uptick from my overall total of 35% in Q1. But since I don’t review every book I read, I realized I also needed to be paying attention to where my review energies were going. Fortunately, of the 22 books I reviewed in Q2, 10 titles qualified, working out to about 45% of my reviews, down just a tick from 46% in Q1. Even though I was busy in Q2, the stockpile I built in Q1 ensured that I had a selection of diverse books on hand to choose from, preventing me from backsliding.
The stockpile of diverse books was particularly important because during the month of May, I also undertook an unrelated month-long mini-challenge, aimed at knocking off a few of the unread books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while. I forswore buying any new books for the month, and was only allowed to check out reference material (such a travel guide books) and audiobooks from the library. I read ten books from my own library, and finally got around to titles such as Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.
Year-to-date, 22 of the 48 books I have reviewed have been by minority authors, for a total of about 46%. Of my total reads, 26 of 71 have qualified, for a total of about 37%. As I’ve been reading more books by a wider range of diverse authors, I’ve noticed the various suggestion algorithms on the sites I use catching up with the shift. For Q1, I was mainly finding books by picking out names and author photos from dust jackets and book reviews, but now Goodreads, NoveList, and Amazon are all responding the the change in my reading. This is both helpful and discouraging since on the one hand, I am getting a technological assist finding the types books I want, but it may also imply that the suggestions for minority authors are tied more strongly to other minority authors than to genre, style, or other more significant appeal factors. This makes increasing the visibility of these titles in other ways all the more important.
In that spirit, onward to Q3!