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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Reading Resolutions: Enhanced and Revamped

Earlier this year I laid out some New Years resolutions for 2010, some of them related to reading and others related to writing. But Laura Miller over at (and Larry over at OF Blog of the Fallen) wrote something that made me think that maybe I should be a little more challenging and, perhaps, rigorous in how I address my reading habits this year.

Looking back over all the books I have read in the last two years (not including school books, which are chosen for me, rather than by me), I’ve noticed the following things:
Books Read (07-09): 60 (roughly; I’ve forgotten a few here or there and left off books I couldn’t finish or were anthologies of some description)
By Women: 22
By Men: 38
By People of Color: 3 (this is not exact and based entirely on available information)
By International Authors (not including Canada or the UK): 5
Fantasy: 30
Science Fiction: 26
Other: 4
Again, these are books I read for my own enjoyment. If I included books for school you would see a dramatic shift in works by people of color and women (and I do quite enjoy many of those school books, by the way, though certainly not all).

What I find curious about these numbers are three things:
  1. I have an almost even 50/50 split between SF and F.
    You’d think I would have read twice as much science fiction in the last three years. Apparently not.
  2. I’ve read around 1.5 times more books by men than women.
    I had expected the numbers to be a little closer, but I’m also pleased that the difference is relatively nominal.
  3. I've read few novels by authors from outside of the big three (the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.).
    I wasn't surprised by this, but it is something that I want to resolve. In this case, I don't think it will be as artificial as #4 (below) simply because international SF, while not hard to find, is certainly not what seems to get pushed on bookshelves.
  4. I’ve read almost no works by people of color.
    Now, there are two things that I think need to be said about this. The first is that I had to do a whole bunch of Google searches to figure out who was and was not a person of color (using a fairly broad definition). I couldn’t have told you who was and was not Asian or African American or what have you prior to this. The second is that I didn’t buy or review the books I read based on race (I can’t do that if I don’t know).

    This, of course, concerns me. While I had the opportunity to read a heck of a lot of women in the last few years, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to read works by people of color (I’ve read a lot of short stories by PoC, but I left those out of this analysis). I don’t know if it would be fair to say that this is indicative of a void in the SF/F publishing industry; having read 60 books in the last three years (a pathetic number, to say the least), it probably wouldn’t be right to use my numbers to comment on a bigger object.

    At the same time, however, I don’t know if I can use this as a basis for any particular challenge for 2010. While it would be nice to read more work by PoC, it would also be too artificial and meaningless to spend my days intentionally trying to find work by PoC. I’m not saying that works by PoC aren’t worth the effort, just that it defeats the purpose of legitimately reading work by such folks if I’m intentionally trying find them. I don’t know if that makes sense (please, leave a comment if you’re confused by what I’m saying here, or if what I’m saying is somehow indicating a negative attitude towards PoC writers).
Looking at all of this, I do have some revamped reading resolutions for 2010 (challenges, actually).
  • Read at least one full book a week.
  • Read more international SF/F.
  • Read a book or two outside of my traditional reading interests.
  • Read more non-fiction.
I think those are fairly reasonable reading goals. What about you? Do you have any reading goals?

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  1. I don't know if "Read more international books" if more or less artificial than "Read more books by PoC". They're both seeking out specific types of authors, and nationality and race are by and large the same type of divide when speaking about sectioning people off into "groups".

    Theoretically (though not at all absolutely), reading book by PoC given you a different SUB-cultural voice/view, where reading international authors gives you a different cultural view/voice. But beyond that prefix, I don't see any difference in consciously seeking one out or the other. Same with gender.

    It's good to keep your mind open to all three - keep aware that you WOULD like to read more of all three - but to actively seek it out in numbers will be artificial no matter which of the three you're talking out. Or so it strikes me.

  2. I was thinking exactly this the other day before your made your comment. I'm going to address it (or question it) in a new post coming up.