2014: The Year in Numbers (2): Diversity Edition

PantomimeGender

The good news is, I read a lot of women: Women accounted for 60% of the authors I read, not including multi-author anthologies, and 43% of the protagonists, again, not including multi-character short stories, or books with male and female protagonists with equal presence.

However, these characters were overwhelmingly cis; two books featured trans characters: J, of I am J, a trans teenage boy, and Micah, of Pantomime, an intersex boy raised as a girl.

Hex is not the protagonist of Love in the Time of Global Warming, however, the book features an explicit enough sex scene between trans Hex and his cis girlfriend, Pen. (It’s not pornographic, but you know what they’re doing.)

I didn’t read any books about trans women.

The Beauty Myth and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex were also exclusively cis in focus, but both would have benefitted hugely from including trans perspectives on beauty, sex, desire, and science.

Sexuality

Miseducation of Cameron Post

Sexuality is a little harder to determine, considering I read a number of children’s books, and the characters are often so young that their sexuality plays zero part in the story. Ophelia (of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy) might be queer; we have no way of knowing, and it’s irrelevant to the plot.

In those cases, I’ve left the data blank, or included the book as “straight,” on the basis of the parents’ orientation.

Only four of the books I read could be classified as “LGB books:” The Miseducation of Cameron PostAfterworldsLove in the Time of Global Warming, and Pantomime.

I read no books primarily about male homosexuality, although gay male characters featured in Love in the Time of Global Warming and My True Love Gave to Me (which also, significantly, had zero queer women).

Race

Akata WitchMy reading list was blindingly white; 9% of the protagonists were people of color, excluding characters of color in multi-story anthologies. The diversity of authors I read wasn’t much better; white authors accounted for 86% of the books I read, and then some. (Again, multi-author anthologies were excluded.)

9% of authors I read were of Asian descent, either Asian-American or living and writing from Asia. Of those, one was a book in translation from Japanese.

(I also read one book in translation from German, by a white author.)

A mere 2% of the books I read were by African-American authors.

One of my reading goals for 2015 is to diversify my reading list. I’ve done a good job of putting my money where my mouth is, at least for library purchasing, but I need to read a more diverse selection of authors in my personal life, too, and practice what I preach at school.

Class

Sapphire BatterseaOne thing I’ve noticed, but found difficult to quantify, is the class status of protagonists. It’s rarely quite so obvious, unless it’s a “problem book” about poverty, but there are subtle clues about class, such as the characters working a part time job (or not), owning a car or cell phone (or not), living in a house or an apartment (or not) and so on, and man, a lot of books are about upper middle class kids, or higher.

I’ve found this especially true of historical fiction, which tends to focus on the upper class or even outright royalty at the expense of… Well, everyone else, really. A Mad, Wicked Folly would have been a much more interesting book if Sophie were the main character; frankly, I’m tired of reading about how bored these rich girls are with their balls and their fancy dresses. Give me more of Hetty Feather and how most of the world actually lived, thanks.

I’d like to point out that Jacqueline Wilson, in particular, has a good range of characters, including very many who are poor or working class. It’s one of the reasons she was my most read author in 2014.

2014: The Year in Numbers (1)

Drita, My HomegirlThe first book I read in 2014 was Drita, My Homegirl. The last book I read in 2014 was Tiger in My Soup.

Total, I read 100 books this year. That’s a good number for me, a goal I’m going to keep in 2015. According to Goodreads, this was 23,972 pages worth of reading.

(I didn’t count every book I read, especially picture books I read to my students. The actual number would be much higher if I did that. I’ve only included picture books that really stood out to me for some reason.)

Of those 100, 92 were new-to-me; 8 were rereads. (The books I reread were: The Little PrinceHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHarry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsThe Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeNo Plot? No Problem!Surviving the ApplewhitesSo Yesterday, and The Hunger Games.)

Ratings

I gave an average of 3 stars, which makes sense, as three is, you know, about average. I gave eleven books 5 stars; 8 books got only 1 star. (I would have given more 1-star reviews, but I’m usually not the kind of person who finishes books I don’t like.)

The books that only got 1 star were: How to Be a GentlemanThe Princess DiariesDivergentI am JPilot and HuxleyInk, The Desire Map, and Poisoned Apples. In particular, Divergent and Ink stand out in my memory as hate-reads; I am J and Poisoned Apples were just disappointments. The others were usually a case of “oops, I only have this book with me right now,” so I ended up finishing them anyway.

The Magician's BookThe books that earned 5 stars were: The Three PigsHarriet the Spy, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneAkata WitchDoll BonesBoxersSaintsAfterworlds, and, of course, this was the year of The Magician’s Book

Genres

My most read genre was fantasy (29), followed by nonfiction (23). Fantasy doubled over with other genres, notably most of my historical fiction reads. I’m not surprised that fantasy won the day; fantasy has always been my favorite genre. However, before this year, I never read nonfiction for fun, and now it’s overtaken all other genres for second place!

Of the fantasy books I read, 5 were what I would call “secret world” fantasies (think the Wizarding World, hidden from us Muggles); nine were magical realism (which I’ve stuck under “fantasy” for ease of sorting, sorry); 2 were paranormal (ghosts, vampires, whatever); five were “secondary worlds” (e.g., one of them is The Silmarillion); and the rest were a hodgepodge.

Of the sci-fi I read (3), they were all dystopias.

A Christmas CarolThis was the year I discovered nonfiction, so I read all over the place, trying to find my “niche” in the nonfiction section. I read: 2 biographies, 5 cultural histories, 1 etiquette book, 1 book about feminism, 3 how-to books, 6 books about books (books about reading or writing), 1 self-help, 2 popular science, and 2 professional development books. (Phew!) The cultural histories were definitely my favorite, and now that I know that, I’ll start seeking out more of those things.

Format

41 of the books I read this year were borrowed from the elementary library where I work; 12 were borrowed from the secondary library. 1 was from Project Gutenberg, 1 was from LibriVox. I won 1 ARC in a raffle. (Assume I own everything else, but mostly in ebook format.)

I listened to 3 audiobooks. 56 of the books I read were in print; the remaining 41 were ebooks, read in the Nook app on my iPhone. (I don’t own a dedicated ereader.)