It’s the time of the year when everyone’s coming up with Book Lists. Best ofs and Favorites and Most-Anticipated in 2015. Most of the time, I love them. I usually use them to add books to my TBR list and inevitably only get around to reading a select few.
The rest of the time, they become itemized proof of what our reading culture lacks. Book lists are supposed to call attention to works we might’ve otherwise missed, but lately I’m caught off guard by how much they make the list-maker’s homogenous worldview glaringly obvious.
Like Graywolf Press’s “Looking Ahead” to 2015 made up solely of 11 men. Or this list of 60 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Turn 30 that left me wondering: where are the Latino voices, the Asian or Pacific Islander voices, the African or Native American voices or Middle Eastern voices or LGBT voices or anything outside of mainstream American or British voices?
I read these lists and I think, Wow, they’re really missing out. It makes me sad—not just for writers who are constantly overlooked, but for readers whose stacks and stacks of books they’ve read are lacking in ways that are completely invisible to them.
It’s not about broadening our perspectives; this implies these writers and voices are somewhere out of reach, when in fact they’re everywhere. It’s not even about diversity; we are not here to add flavor or color to any list—we are here because we are here, too.
This is supposed to be a time of year where we reflect and look ahead. Why not let our lists do that? They’re not just suggesting to us what to read. They’re showing us what we haven’t.
So here’s my end-of-year challenge to you: Make a list of all the books you read in 2014. What are you not seeing? What voices are missing? Start there in 2015.