Reading Diversely – A Top Ten List


The bookternet has been abuzz for the last few days since Book Con announced it’s line up of guests for 2014. Grumpy Cat aside, the list is appallingly white. In spite of the multiple conversations taking place in the public sphere about diversity in publishing, BookCon stuck to the same old theme.

Allison over at The Book Wheel raised some interesting points by suggesting that perhaps Book Con isn’t the problem. Their event is consumer driven, she argues, so maybe it is the reader who is to blame. We are the ones who are overwhelmingly supporting white, male writers, at least if you look at the best sellers lists.

That made me consider my own reading habits. If you were to ask me, I’d say that I read diversely. But then looking at the past few months I realized that my reading has been very pale to almost purely white. That led me to come up with this list of my favorite recent books by people of color in hopes that some of you will give them a try. And rest assured that the next book I pick up will reflect some diversity.

  1. Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera
  2. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  3. The Juggler’s Children by Carolyn Abraham
  4. The After Life of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan
  5. Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
  6. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  7. The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai
  8. Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui
  9. The Isolation Door by Anish Majumdar
  10. Foreign Gods Inc by Okey Ndibe

What books are you reading to add diversity to your shelves? Is it enough?


  1. I think Allison made an excellent point. I didn’t read her blog until you mentioned her, so thank you for that! I read a lot of women authors, but I could read more diversely in other directions. I have Ishmael Beah’s new book on my TBR pile. Maybe I’ll bump it up.

  2. My reading has always been very diverse, I think because I’ve been fortunate to be raised in a very diverse place and it’s right there in my own family, so I gravitate toward books that reflect my life.
    Alysia at My Little Pocketbooks is hosting the Diversity on the Shelf challenge this year. It’s a great way to find books to read.

  3. I’m always trying to read more diversely. I’ve only read Crazy Rich Asians from your list. But I just checked out a few of the other titles and will be adding some to my TBR list (The Juggler’s Children sounds particularly intriguing). Thanks for the recommendations!

  4. Definitely something to think about. I tend to read what I feel like at the time, with a bit of a focus on Canadian since starting my blog, but it’s always a good idea to branch out! Thanks for the list! Recently I read, and loved, George and Rue by George Elliott Clarke.

  5. Really important topic Tanya! Thanks for sharing this list and also calling attention to this. Some of my recommendations to start are:

    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
    The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
    Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
    Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    All on my shelf of favorites. : )

  6. Great list! I definitely do a good job reading female authors, but I only do a decent job reading books by non-white authors. I’d particularly like to work in more translated fiction and more non-fiction, non-memoirs by women.

  7. I think I read fairly diversely — I never thought much about it until this controversy about BookCon came up. But what I have noticed from working at a bookstore is that men are, in general, reluctant to read books by female authors. And the vast majority of my male customers don’t want to read books ABOUT female characters, regardless of the gender of the author. Mothers will not buy books with female protagonists for their boys: “It’s about a girl? He won’t read about a girl.” It doesn’t work the other way — women and girls are happy to read about male characters.

  8. Interesting! This makes me want to go back and analyze my own reading. Honestly, who writes what is just not something that I typically think about when picking up books, unless it’s by an author that I always knee jerk read anyway (Stephen King, Margaret Atwood … both white…) My point being that I don’t go out after that author’s bio before I read a book.

    Definitely a great discussion topic!

    Thanks for linking up with Spread the Love!

  9. Terrific list. I read mostly female writers, but they average out to quite pale, too. My diversity book club helps, but to be supportive of currently working authors, I need to delve into some more fiction on my own.

    Hopped over from the Spread the Love link party.

  10. Nice conversation.
    I am a literary critic primary reading black female works of authors from the Harlem Renaissance to contemporary works. I do believe the publishing landscape tends to ignore the voice of the American black female, as protagonist or as writer. This was why I started reviewing literary works, NOT that urban genre that whit e owned publishing houses push out.

    The lack of literature featuring black women, the sexuality covers, and the overwhelming whiteness at the book stores, is what made me decide to write my book blog. I set out to find and read works that did jot play into stereotypes.

    The list you provided is great and features works I have not read. It is missing the African American perspective. A challenge of reading diversely in the states would include exploring beyond what was required in high school and college. I hope some of the posters here will add one of these books to their lexicon.

    Explore the reviews and extensive list that is on my site if you really want to read diversely, especially for Americans. Contemporary authors like Bernice McFadden, Zadie Smith,Jewell Parker Rhodes, Lalita Tademy, Edwidge Danticat, along with the famous and usually known authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Paule Marshall, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler are all worthy of exploration.

    Happy reading.

    • As I made up my list i realized that I do not read black american/ canadian writers. I can’t figure out why that is. Of course in the past I’ve read Toni Morrison and have tried Edwidge Dandicat, but beyond that it is just embarrassing what I haven’t read. I think what is important, however, is that I’ve realized what I’m missing and I am going to try to rectify that. Thanks so much for your input.

  11. It’s not like I go into bookstores thinking that I’m only going to pick books by white, English speaking males and yet…
    I’ve increased the amount of female authors I read, and I do read a lot of euro-lit, but I’m really bad about diversity otherwise. Thank you for the links and the recs! A good one I read recently was The Map of Love by Ahdaf Souief.

    I have a translation issue to get over in that I studied translation in Spanish and French and I got to know how much is changed in the translation process. The changes are not necessarily good or bad, but they are changes and I can’t seem to get it out of my head when reading translated literature, that I’m not reading the original version. But I have confidence that I’ll eventually get past this and start reading more in translation eventually 🙂 -Tania

  12. Great post and list! I’m kind of the opposite- I hardly ever read books by white men. I love Southeast Asian fiction and would suggest On Sal Mal Lane, anything by Thrity Umrigar, Ruby, and On Such a Full Sea. All are very good.

  13. Pingback: April Round Up! | 52 books or bust

  14. Great list! I have a good amount of diversity in authors on my blog, but not enough! Also, I tend to read more than I review, so I guess a better “look” would be for me to check out my Goodreads list. BUT does that mean I should make sure to show more diversity on my blog itself too? Makes me think. . .

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  16. It’s not easy to do without having awareness of What We Read, which was the name of a post I wrote earlier this year, looking back to try and understand it better, so that I could make some changes.

    I love reading about other cultures, so am always searching for books written by people from different countries, but it is amazing how much US and UK literature still dominate. Last year I read books by authors from 22 countries, but it’s still not diverse enough and I hope to improve this year.

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