What started as a dumb challenge to myself to read 52 books in 52 weeks is now in its THIRD YEAR. Also I somehow turned this into a lightning talk I gave at a conference last year. (See blog posts from 2016 and 2015).
What I did differently this year
For the last two years, the percentage of female authors I read has hovered stubbornly around 30% and last year, I realized that if I’m not conscientious about the books and authors I’m reading, I tend to read mostly books by (white) men. So this year, I made the active choice for at least half the books I read this year to be by women/people of color. The final count ended up being 42 books by women, 20 of those written by women of color, and 10 books by men, 6 of those written by men of color.
Pages read per month:
Breakdown of books I read:
I read fiction vs. nonfiction pretty evenly this year, even though I generally prefer reading fiction. In terms of nonfiction, I read memoirs (Lindy West, Jessica Valenti, Maya Angelou), books about feminism and gender ( All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, Full Frontal Feminism), rape culture ( Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town), education ( Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools), race ( Hidden Figures, The New Jim Crow, The Fire This Time, Citizen: An American Lyric), and racial politics ( The Color of Success, Dog Whistle Politics).
The best fiction I read this year were Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, both of which are sprawling epics of immeasurable suffering, circumstance, and perseverance.
Most of the books I read were between 200–400 pages long, though I did read some 600–800 page books ( A Little Life, The Goldfinch, and The Making of Asian America). I took advantage of my university library before I graduated, and after moving to New York, joined the New York Public Library, which has kept me with 3–4 books on deck at any given moment and the due dates have honestly been the most effective way of making sure I finish books on time. I love libraries — seriously, join a library. And support your local library!
How I track what I read
How I choose books to read
I added an extra sheet to my book tracking spreadsheet to add books I want to read as I come across them on the internet and IRL. I largely get my book recommendations from friends, podcasts, articles, newsletters, and people I follow on Twitter. I also read books by authors I’ve previously read, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roxane Gay, and Donna Tartt.
A few favorites
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
- The Dead Ladies Project — Exiles, Expats, & Ex-Countries by Jessa Crispin
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
What I’m doing differently this year
I hope to continue reading diverse books by diverse authors, with more far-ranging subject matter. I might take on NYPL’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge, which lays out 24 book tasks to encourage reading “consciously, thoughtfully, and outside your comfort zone.” It’s also more important than ever to read from and “assemble a library of resistance.”
Originally published at http://nicolezhu.github.io on February 4, 2017.