For the last few months, what I’ve been reading has changed a lot. If you were to compare the things I’ve read in the last few years to what I’ve been reading lately, you’d see what I mean. Before I joined the book blogging and BookTube community, I mainly read classics and adult fiction—varying from general, to thriller, to literary.
However, since I joined more of a community of readers, I’ve found more things that I like! I have always had eclectic interests, but my reading didn’t really reflect that.
As you probably know, a great, great deal of bloggers and BookTubers discuss, almost exclusively, Young Adult books. Before I frequented blogs and BookTube channels, I hardly ever read, or thought about, YA. I read what I knew. I honestly hadn’t read any YA since I was a teenager. And when I was a teenager, I didn’t read many different sub-genres of YA. I read almost nothing but fantasy when I was a kid and in middle school, but when I was a teenager, I gravitated more toward realistic fiction (except for Twilight of course. I loved those books when I was in high school! No shame).
Lots of people today love YA, especially fantasy, and there seems to have been somewhat of an explosion of books in this genre. Because there is so much of it, and so many people talking about it, I have been exposed to more reviews and more titles in YA. This exposure has led to an exponential increase in the amount of YA I read. Specifically, I have been reading a lot of YA fantasy, and I am loving it.
However, there are drawbacks to this as well. Because I have been exposing myself to so much of one genre, it has begun to limit the diversity of genres I read. Instead of expanding what I was reading, it has changed the focus, leaving it still equally narrow. This realization though, is helping me toward my goal of reading more diversely. Identifying the issue is half the problem! I want to read more diversely in many ways. I want to read a wide range of genres, from a wide range of authors, chronicling a wide range of experiences. I want to step outside of my comfort zone and test the waters, finding different things that I enjoy.
When I sat thinking about this, it reminded me of something that Amanda Nelson said in a video on Book Riot’s YouTube channel. While discussing diversity in books, Amanda noted that we buy what we are sold. The things that are thrust at us, the things that we see and hear about the most, those are things we are going to read and buy. I have personally experienced this in my newfound love of YA fantasy. I heard somewhere that there are usually five points of contact before I person will purchase something. This means that the consumer will be more likely to buy something after they see it or hear about it five times. If you are complacent, you will continue to buy what you are sold! But if you take an active role in your consumption of books, this can change.
If we buy what we are sold, we need to diversify what we are sold. This is not going to happen without an effort. We need to seek out books in different genres, books from different types of authors, telling different types of stories. You may be perfectly content with what you’re reading now—but what are you missing? The straight white man’s story is not the only one out there worth telling. YA fantasy is not the only genre worth reading. If we expand what we expose ourselves to, we will expand our interests and our libraries. This leads to expanding our minds.
If you are a reader, you know the impact a book can have upon a person. Books let us experience things completely outside of ourselves, allowing us to grow in empathy and compassion. They teach us things from the eyes of others. If we are only reading one type of book, what are we learning? We are enjoying ourselves, and that is totally fine, but what about the myriad other things that books have to offer?
I’m not saying you should feel bad about what you read or what you like. I’m saying that we should allow ourselves to be exposed to other things. Maybe we will find something else that we like! For example, I have taken some tiny steps—I’ve subscribed to more channels and blogs that talk about various genres—not just YA. The things I read about are more diverse now, so hopefully the things I read will be too.
What have you guys been reading lately? What are you interested in? What do you think about reading more diversely? How important do you think diversity in reading is? What can you do/are you doing to encourage diversity in books? And in your reading life?
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.