In the first six months of 2020 I read 62 books. Never in my life have I read so much in the space of so few months, but Covid-19 meant I was furloughed and unable to leave the house. It’s certainly not representative of the average number of books I tend to read. In fact, that number is probably my yearly average.
For 2020 I’ve been making an effort to record my reading in a spreadsheet after being inspired by this episode of the Reading Women’s podcast. We all have unconscious biases and these often present themselves in the books we buy and read. Although we may think we’re buying books based on the story alone, I think it’s really important to question which stories are being publicised more, given bigger marketing budgets to reach wider audiences, and being reviewed more in publications (just recently The State of Poetry and Poetry Criticism in the UK Ireland 2009 – 2019 report found that the London Review of Books failed to publish a single review of a non-white poetry book or the writing of a single non-white poetry critic over that ten year period). These stories aren’t created and don’t exist in a vacuum, they aren’t immune to the systemic racism, sexism and homophobia endemic in Capitalist, neo-liberal society and, as a result, exist in the world of publishing.
Just like a few years ago when people were reckoning with the fact that they read fewer womxn than they thought, I think a similar reckoning is happening with Black writers and writers of colour in the midst of the Black liberation movement. It’s been incredible seeing Black writers topping bestseller lists in the UK and the US but also saddening that the reason for this was yet another Black person killed by the police. Hopefully this momentum to buy books by Black writers leads to reading books by Black writers and shifting publishing out of the white-dominated industry it has always been.
For the last few years I’ve exclusively read books by womxn writers. This year I’m trying to read more writers of colour (including some books by men). Next year I’m considering reading only books written by the global majority (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) as they make up 80% of the world’s population. That’s 80% of the world’s population that I haven’t been prioritising in my reading choices. It would also mean moving outside of UK/US dominated stories and seeking more books written in translation, which can only be a good thing.
Anyway, for now here are some stats from my reading so far this year.
- books read: 62 (32 fiction, 25 nonfiction, 4 poetry collections, 1 graphic novel), 5 of these were rereads
- pages read: 15, 907
- books by those who identify as womxn: 50
- books by writers of colour: 42
- translations: 9
- books by writers who identify as LGBTQIA+: 3
And here is a stack of my top ten reads of the year. You can visit my Instagram page for reviews of each one.