Many readers are often trying to expand their literary horizons and read more diversely, but aren’t really sure how to start doing that. Thankfully, we are getting more and more diverse books and authors all the time, so now it’s easier than ever to read more diversely!
Read What You Know
This might sound like a bit of a confusing statement, but the best way to read diversely is to keep reading what you know. That doesn’t mean keep reading the exact same authors and books you’ve always been reading, but it means reading the books that you genuinely enjoy reading. If you’re a fan of fantasy, but you decide diversifying your reading means contemporary novels by marginalised authors…you’re probably not going to enjoy that. Diverse authors are writing in every single genre. Find the authors and books in your favourite genres, and start reading them. You’ll be reading books you enjoy and diversifying your reading at the same time.
Follow Diverse Creators
A great way to find recommendations for diverse books is from diverse creators themselves. This includes book bloggers, Bookstagrammers, BookTubers, and more. There are so many amazing diverse content creators out there and they’re doing amazing work uplifting books by, and about, marginalised people. The great thing about following these creators is that a lot of the time they’ll have insight into diverse books that you may not, and engaging with their content doesn’t just give you a list of great recommendations (and many #OwnVoices ones too), but also insight into the books that you may not have otherwise. Here are some Indigenous and queer Bookstagrammers to get you started!
Be Deliberate In Your Reading
This is probably the most important step when it comes to reading diversely. It’s very easy to have the intention to read diversely and support marginalised authors and their books, but much more difficult to be deliberate in your reading to the point where you are doing that and significantly changing your reading habits. In order to do this, you have to look at your bookshelves, your Kindle library…whatever your method of consuming books is. Is it filled with authors and books that fit a certain demographic? You’re probably going to have to make a very deliberate effort to change that.
It’s easier than ever to keep track of your reading, and that can be an important part of reading diversely. Whether it’s on Goodreads, a spreadsheet, or your reading journal, you should be looking at the statistics of what you’re reading and who you’re reading. If, month after month, year after year, there’s no change in your reading habits, you’re probably not making a concentrated effort to diversify your reading. So be very deliberate. Make lists of diverse books and authors you want to buy, read, and support, and follow through.
Show Up For Diverse Authors
A mistake that I believe a lot of readers make is diversifying their reading to read books about marginalised people…but not by marginalised people themselves. It’s very important to make the effort to read books by marginalised authors, and to support them.
And supporting authors doesn’t just have to look like buying their books. It can mean leaving them reviews, ordering their books into libraries, speaking about their books, selecting their books for your book club reading, and so much more! In this way, you’re not just diversifying what you’re actively consuming in books, but also in your interactions with books and reading.
Don’t Expect a Lesson on Marginalisation
Another common mistake I find a lot of readers make is expecting that picking up a book by and/or about a marginalised author is a lesson on that marginalisation. Their reviews will say things like, “I learned about…” or “I really wanted to learn more about…” and that is really the wrong way to go into reading marginalised authors. Your expectations of reading a book shouldn’t change simply because you’re reading a diverse book. If you expect a non-diverse fantasy book to be an entertaining read and not teach you about specific cultures, you should keep that expectation for a diverse book.
Does that mean that you can’t learn anything from a diverse book? No, of course not! The merits of reading a diverse book is that oftentimes you are being exposed to experiences, cultures, and much more, that you may not be exposed to otherwise. And it’s an additional benefit that we may go away from a diverse book a lot more knowledgeable about certain things that we may not have learned otherwise. But when readers constantly put the onus of education on diverse books specifically, we make reading diversely really difficult. It makes reading seem like a chore for ourselves, and at the same time it puts the burden of education on diverse authors.
Why Is It Important To Read Diversely?
There is so much diversity in the world and thanks to books, we can experience and know about a lot of things that we may not otherwise. I’ve always loved books because they give insight into a life that I haven’t lived, and that is why reading diversely is so important. It helps us step into shoes that we’ll never get to step into. It helps us see the world through different lenses. And it also gives us really good stories that have been missing from the literary canon for far too long a time! Reading diversely can only make our reading lives infinitely better, so I definitely recommend everybody give it the old college try.