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On Diversifying My Reading List by Emily Hessney Lynch
In 2019, I made a concerted effort to diversify my reading. I’m a voracious reader already, typically reading 50-60 books per year, and in 2019 I had set a goal of reading 100 books. It seemed like a great opportunity to also focus on reading more books written by people of color and LGBTQ+ authors.
As an English and History double major in college, I’m often drawn to going back and reading the “classics” I missed. We insist “classics are classics for a reason,” but there’s so many excellent books being published today by authors from diverse backgrounds, and when you read only classics, you miss out on other perspectives. I did a quick review of my Goodreads challenge from 2018 compared to 2019. In 2018, I read 64 books. By a rough estimate, about 22 books were by people of color or LGBTQ+ authors. When I look at my 2019 stats (I just finished my 100th book this week!), 52 of the books I read were by POC or LGBTQ+ authors!
If you’re interested in diversifying your reading list too, here are a few tips to get started:
- Keep an eye out on social media for book recommendations from people whose opinions you respect. Follow people of color and LGBTQ+ folks, especially writers, and see whose work they recommend.
- If you enjoy a particular genre, instead of reaching for a new romance novel by a white author, do a little bit of research and find something by an author of color instead! Jasmine Guillory and Helen Hoang are two great romance writers, and there are many others. Hoang is also a neurodiverse author who writes neurodiverse characters—she has Autism Spectrum Disorder herself and writes love stories for characters like her.
- Read outside your preferred genres. I picked up more Young Adult (YA) than ever this year and I loved it! It’s heartening to see so many diverse stories being told by incredible authors, like Abid Khorram, Mason Deaver, Angie Thomas, and Elizabeth Acevedo.
- Try picking a reading theme for the month. This year, I read five books by Black authors for Black History Month, six books by women authors for Women’s History Month, and eight books by LGBTQ+ authors for Pride Month. It was a lot of fun!
- Join a book club. Though I was skeptical of book clubs for awhile, I joined Books + Yoga Roc this year, where we read works by authors of color, discuss, and then do yoga and meditate. It steered me towards books I may not have otherwise picked up, and we had some enlightening conversations too. There are lots of great politically-minded book clubs out there, no matter where you live, so seek one out or start your own!
If you’re in search of your next great book to read, here are 10 of my favorites from this year by people of color or LGBTQ+ authors:
- How Long Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin
- Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest by Hanif Abdurraqib
- We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
- Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- Heavy by Kiese Laymon
- Good Talk by Mira Jacob
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
- The Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
- Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
Happy reading! Feel free to tweet me if you ever need a book recommendation— @servemethesky.
About Emily Hessney Lynch
Emily Hessney Lynch is the owner and founder of Serve Me the Sky Digital, a social media consulting business that’s helped numerous nonprofits, startups, and small businesses take their social media to the next level. In her spare time, Emily is the Director of I Heart ROC, a local website that tells the stories of fascinating Rochesterians. She is also on the Board of Cameron Community Ministries. Emily holds a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from the University of Rochester. She’s a voracious reader and the proud parent of two rescue dogs.
Photo credit: John Schlia Photography