What I’ll be reading this year: fewer straight white guys

I have a book addiction. This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, has seen my bookshelves, or remembers this post with the picture of my nightstand back home in St. Louis. I’ve tried to cut back, I’ve told myself I’ll only buy a book once I’ve finished another book, I’ve culled five boxes of books from the shelves back home, I’ve taken to buying e-books to reduce the sheer bulk of clutter in the house, and yet this is what my bookshelf in my bedroom looks like at the moment:


It’s not pretty. And this isn’t even everything! I’ve got another book ordered and on the way (Maggie and Me by Damian Barr, ordered from Pulp Fiction Books—I’m probably the last person in Vancouver to discover this very cool bookstore).

In other words, I have my reading cut out for me for 2014. However, after reading this blog post by writer Ayelet Tsabari, I’m planning to tailor my reading priorities for the year. I want to get out of the straight white guy whirlpool (wait, that sounded better in my head than it looks on screen; well, never mind, we’re moving on). Part of my grad school experience has involved gaining greater awareness and exposure to Canadian literature, and I’ve discovered some writers I really enjoy a lot.

People who have been reading my blog for a while know that I used to keep a running tally here of the books that I’d read/wanted to read. Thanks to the wonders of sites like Goodreads (go add me as a friend if you haven’t already), it’s even easier for me to keep track of my reading. Last year, I read thirty-two books—check out the list here. When I look at the list myself, a few things jump out at me:

1. Pretty covers!
2. Of those thirty-two, only ten were written by women.*
3. Except for two books, they were all written by white people.

Frankly, I don’t think that’s representative enough. The great thing about reading is being transported into characters whose backgrounds and lives are vastly different from our own. I want to challenge myself to continue reading authors outside of my own realm of experience, but particularly I want to seek out writers outside the typical straight-white-male sphere.

So, here are a few books that are on my to-read list for the coming year:

Blacker than Blue, by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Clearwater, by Kim McCullough
Funny Boy, by Shyam Selvaduri
The Hungry Ghosts, by Shyam Selvaduri
Sucuoyant, by David Chariandy
Maggie and Me, by Damian Barr
The Queen of the Night, by Alexander Chee
Half Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan
Dogs at the Perimeter, by Madeleine Thien
The Best Place on Earth: Stories, by Ayelet Tsabari

Given how slowly I tend to read, this should keep me busy for several months, at least.

At first I did wonder about choosing my reading selections this way, because it seems so arbitrary, but as Ayelet Tsabari points out in that blog post, it’s no more arbitrary than any other reason someone picks the books they read. The analogy that comes to mind is going out to eat: If you go to the same restaurants and pick the same things off the menu every time, it gets predictable after a while. Why not pick something new, right? That’s what I’m doing.

So, what’s on your to-read list?

*Of those thirty-two, three were multi-author anthologies, so they could be counted one way or the other, but I’m not going to count them.

8 thoughts on “What I’ll be reading this year: fewer straight white guys

  1. Just looked at the list of books I’ve read since Xmas and they are all by White establishment figures so I’m going to have a go at this list and also add some Walter Mosley. Two of the books I’ve read are le Carre novels and his disconnected, Third Culture people, sometimes mixed race, misfits are brilliiant though! I’m going to blog about this too and would you mind if I shared this link as a credit to you?

  2. I want to read more non-gay literature, if that makes sense? I still want to read gay fiction, but my list for 2013 is a bit gay-heavy. I also want to read the books in my to-read pile before I buy any more. Currently, this includes The Making of the British Landscape, a biography of Caravaggio and novel about Elizabeth I. I’m currently reading The Iliad, which a Classics student at work has loaned me, but I’ve wanted to read that ever since I read The Odyssey at uni. I think I’m going to try to mix it up and read a gay novel next. I also want to return to some of the Postcolonial and Icelandic lit I read at uni. Those books have been sitting in a bookshelf at my parents’ for the past fifteen years, so it’s high time I dusted them off…

  3. Pingback: What I’ll be reading this year: fewer straight white guys—an update « Jeffrey Ricker

  4. Pingback: They’re not resolutions, they’re goals. Here are mine. | Jeffrey Ricker

  5. Pingback: My Year of Reading Only Writers of Colour « Ayelet Tsabari

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