I’ve been reading widely for years. My method for choosing books is often not very sophisticated. I generally make my selections based on a combination of personal genre tastes, book cover, reviews, and recommendations. It wasn’t until the summer of 2014 that I realized my selection process has created a massive hole in my reading lists—I rarely, if ever, read books by international or female authors. I subconsciously gravitate towards white male authors in established genres.
This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s preventing me from experiencing stories from other cultures and voices that have the possibility to completely transform my life. I refuse to limit myself that way.
I’ve been trying to be more intentional about what I read. I want to read more books by women and by authors from other countries. I want to read books that deal with mental illnesses, sexuality, religion, and race. I want to read books from authors who look different from me, who believe different things, who come from different places. I want to expand my horizons.
Recently, I’ve discovered that to do this means opening myself to different genres, not just different authors. It means removing the literary canon from its pedestal. I want to read more Young Adult literature (which tends to discuss diversity in much more interesting ways than adult fiction). I want to read more nonfiction, more science fiction, more genre fiction. We all tell stories different ways, through different mediums and genres. To limit myself to traditional genres is to limit myself to traditional stories.
I won’t always understand what I read. I won’t always like what I read. But I want to stop being comfortable. Ask questions, give me recommendations, and challenge yourself. Read outside the box.