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How to Diversify Your To-Be-Read Pile

A guest post by Adrian Harley.

A new year brings with it new resolutions—and for many of us, that includes reading resolutions. It’s a truism that resolutions tend to fail. A local radio announcer here said that 67% of Americans have never completed a resolution in their life, and if you can’t trust a random local radio announcer in the mountains of North Carolina, who can you trust? 

I think part of the reason resolutions fail is they feel like work. And that’s especially a shame when it comes to reading resolutions. Reading is wonderful! Sitting down with a good book makes my heart sing, even when (especially when) the book makes me cry or rage at the injustice of the world or stare out the window wondering how I’ll ever be the same after reading it.

Thus, I’m afraid that resolutions to read more diversely don’t do justice to the wonder of diverse books. There are whole worlds out there that racism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, anti-semitism, and other forms of bigotry keep from us. It’s amazing that we live in a time where we can peel back that dusty film between us and the wonders of reality.

That’s all well and good to say, of course, but how do you put that principle into practice? How do you resolve to read diversely without turning all that wonder into just another box to be ticked?

I think we can start by acknowledging that, as Danika Ellis puts it, “books” and “reading” are two different hobbies. 

Thinking about books, listening to reviews of books, browsing bookstores, talking about books…these are all, in some ways, the hobby of books. These funnel into the hobby of reading, but it’s not a one-to-one connection, as my piles of unread books can testify. (Both hobbies run into a third hobby of buying books, which is a topic for a different post.)

In the hobby of reading, you’ll run into limits, whether they be money, time, or the physical number of books you can carry from the library in one visit. The beauty of the hobby of books is its lack of limitations. You can dream big. This is the two-story library I would have in my home, were I rich as sin. This is the cozy window seat in which I would read this million-word fantasy series.

So, how do you diversifying your reading hobby in 2023? First, seek out diverse books in the infinite playground of books as a hobby. Search phrases like “Best fantasy by black authors,” “Best BIPOC-authored books of 2022,” “Most-anticipated queer fiction of 2023”… you get the idea. Browse them to find what sounds good to you. I keep a TBR list—have for almost 10 years—but you don’t need to keep a literal list (though you might find one helpful if you don’t already have it!). Make a wishlist on your preferred book-purchasing website. Remember the books that sing to you. You don’t need to have a responsible goal in mind, like a resolution or a book bingo, unless you want to give yourself that extra challenge. Pick books based on their covers, or because they have a cat in them, or whatever gets you interested.

When you incorporate diverse books into your book hobby, it transforms the reading hobby too. When you’re back in the real world with all its limits and you can only grab two books, you won’t think, “Oh, I really want the two books Brandon Sanderson has magicked into published existence this month, but I have to tick a checkbox.”  That way lies stacks of unread books chosen nearly at random solely because of the representation they contain or appear to contain. Instead, you will face the much better and much worse problem of thinking, “Oh, I really want the two books Brandon Sanderson has magicked up, but also Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland, but also Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, but also Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi…” 

(You think you know what it means to have too many books? You have not yet begun to comprehend too many books!)

Aside from the emotional turmoil of choosing between even more books when transitioning from your book hobby to your reading hobby, though, diversifying your book hobby has no downsides. It becomes part of your life. It lets you explore the world in full color.

And yes, it makes it easy and fun to read more diverse books. 


Want some additional support in figuring out ways to diversify your reading? Here’s some other blog posts we’ve done that relate, at least tangentially, to this topic!


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