Reading More Diversely: Mid-Year Update

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Back in December, I did a quick review of my personal reading for 2014, and decided I wanted to make a concerted effort to read more diversely. My stats for last year included a chart that showed I read slightly more women authors than men, and about 25% of the books I read were by authors of color. I also read predominately authors of American or British origin, with very little in translation. While those numbers were not terrible, they were not as well-rounded as I’d like, so I knew I wanted to work at changing them this year.

But how to change? There were a number of challenges going around at the start of the year — suggestions of how to diversify your reading habits no matter what demographic you were seeking to increase. One of the most notable was K. Tempest Bradford’s reading challenge, where she suggested readers go an entire year without reading a single book by white male, cis, straight authors.

I thought the challenge sounded fabulous, but a little extreme for my personal taste, simply because I knew I would trip over books during the course of the year that excited me and that I would want to read immediately, and sometimes they would not fall into the challenge parameters. Instead I decided I would let her challenge inspire me to be more mindful of what I read in general, and make a concerted effort to choose more books by a variety of different authors. They were certainly on my radar — and on my shelves. It was just a matter of pushing them higher up on my to-read list.

Because I did own so many books by authors of color and different backgrounds, I physically pulled a bunch off of my bookcases and made an actual pile. This way, when I’m ready to read a new book, these titles are some of the first I consider. New books by authors of color get added to the stack when I acquire them, as well, keeping them in the forefront of my mind.

So how am I doing? Better, but there’s still room for improvement. As of today, my ratio has increased and approximately 35% of my reading this year has been by writers of color. I’ve read fewer books overall than I’d have liked, but there’s still more than four months left in 2015, so I have plenty of time to catch up in all respects. I’m pretty pleased with my system, but I’ll definitely reassess at the end of the year to determine if I’ll continue this way in 2016, or if I will find a more aggressive way of meeting my goal.

The beauty of reading challenges is that they serve as a spring board. If they fit with your goals, and seem like something you want to try for, terrific! If they seem a little too ambitious for you, tailor them for your own needs. Some readers already read diversely in terms of authors of color but would like to check out more books in translation, or simply by non-American authors. Other readers want to read more women authors, or more nonfiction.

Although I sometimes joke that I’d like to read “all the books,” in reality I know that’s both impractical and simply not true. Not all books appeal to me. There are plenty of titles out there that I’m happy to skip. But with so many millions of books to choose from, there are definitely many I’ve yet to discover that I no doubt will adore. It’s a matter of scratching around and being open to all of the many sources, and widening my scope when it comes to the places where I go to learn about both back lists and new releases.

For instance, despite knowing of Tempest’s challenge, I only recently came across her YouTube channel where she recommends different books by a range of authors, all of which fit her challenge parameters. Even though I’m not following the challenge precisely, this serves as a fabulous source for reading recommendations. I’m also a frequent visitor to Book Riot, where they are actively discussing diversity in publishing and make an effort to talk about a broad range of books. I follow the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and learn about great authors of color writing for kids and young adults.

For me, it’s not sufficient to read more by authors of color. I also want to be more aware of the books that are out there and — I hope — help more great books by authors of color find their way into bookstores and the hands of readers. I’m not just a reader, but a person working in the industry, and so part of reading more diversely for me is about making strides toward diversifying publishing as a whole.

Happy Book Day!

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A very happy book release day and congratulations to Samantha Grace, whose latest Rival Rogues Regency romance, THE BEST OF BOTH ROGUES, is out today.

The worst thing Mr. Benjamin Hillary ever did was leave his bride-to-be on their wedding day. The hardest thing he will ever have to do is watch her marry another man.

After two long years abroad, Ben finds Eve every bit as captivating as she was the first time he saw her, and he vows to set things right.

Lady Eve Thorne has a new man in her life, and Ben is nothing but trouble. She is no longer a starry-eyed young woman, and now that he’s back, he can go hang for all she cares. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself…

You’ll find THE BEST OF BOTH ROGUES at your favorite book retailer in paper or digital format.

 

Happy Book Day!

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Wishing a very happy book birthday to Nalini Singh, whose SHARDS OF HOPE, the next installment in the Psy/Changeling series, releases today!

Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. Their only hope for survival is to make it to the hidden home of a predatory changeling pack that doesn’t welcome outsiders.

And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad, an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. She knows she’s too damaged to return from the abyss. Her driving goal is to protect Aden, protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what. This time, even Aden’s passionate determination may not be enough—because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent, and the insane, and the irreparably broken…like Zaira.

 

Happy Book Day!

RockHard_finalcoverA very happy book birthday to Nalini Singh, whose latest Rock Kiss novel — ROCK HARD — is now available at your favorite e-tailer, both in paperback and e-book formats.

In New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh’s newest contemporary romance, passion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past…

Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

Check out book two of this sexy series today and see how these two very different people learn to work — and play — together.

 

ROCK HARD by Nalini Singh: Sneak Peek

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ROCK HARD, the next book in Nalini Singh’s sexy Rock Kiss contemporary romance series, comes out March 10th, but you can get a sneak peek now.

In New York Times Bestselling author Nalini Singh’s newest contemporary romance, passion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past…

Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

Head on over to Nalini’s website to read excerpts from the book, and for links to pre-order from your favorite e-tailer.

Reading Diversely: Reflecting on the Year

If anything seemed to characterize this year in reading, it was the ongoing discussion about the importance of reading more diversely, whatever that meant for you as an individual reader. The conversation touched on a number of points, but focused primarily on reading women authors, reading authors of color, and reading books where the characters themselves were more representative of the diverse population of the world. Reading diversely is especially important for writers, because of all the ways it provides you with a broader outlook, greater empathy and understanding, cultural insights, and more scope for your imagination.

Like many dedicated readers, I like to think I’m pretty broad in my choices of reading material, but I made a point of paying more attention to what I was reading this year, mostly because I had the nagging feeling I could do better. While I still have a couple of books in progress, and I may finish one or more of them before we ring in the new year tonight, I think we’re close enough that I can take a general look at the shape of my reading for 2014.

I’ve never tracked my reading choices beyond noting the title, author, and date I’ve finished reading the book, but it’s easy enough to run through the list of authors and determine how they fall in terms of gender and race. As has been the case the past few years, I read much less than I’d have liked this year, but certainly enough that I can share my percentages.

In terms of gender of authors, 55% of the titles were written by women, and 45% by men. These percentages include one book that had three authors, one female and two male, which was weighted accordingly. This is actually a more equal distribution than the last few years, when I read more books by women than men by a much larger margin, something I know is partly due to the fact that I read a fair amount of romance and young adult fiction for work reasons, and those genres seem to boast more women authors than male authors.

As for racial/cultural diversity, approximately 25% of the books I read were by authors of color (male and female), which isn’t a horrible percentage but is certainly smaller than I would like it to be. One of the two partly read books currently on the nightstand is by an author of color, but I have a bit more left than I’m likely to get through tonight. The upside is that it will be the first book finished in 2015 and thus get me off to a good start for next year’s reading goals. Reading more diversely has become part of my ongoing reading objectives, not simply something to think about for one year and trade for a new goal the next. I loved that my efforts to read a bigger variety of authors in 2014 led me to finally read James Baldwin, after years of meaning to pick up one of his books; to delve into Roxane Gay’s emotional novel An Untamed State; and to discover Zadie Smith’s wonderful essays.

Thinking about reading in 2015, I’m recommitting to my standard “read more books” goal, and also to reading more diversely. In addition, I’m going to try and get through more of the books I own rather than continuing to buy books that end up collecting dust for years before I get around to them. I’m considering a number of writing challenges that I’ve discovered around the bookish internet as a way to focus my personal reading efforts. Of course there are the standards, that involve setting a goal of a certain number of books read for the year, or reading books only by women or only by authors of color. However, there appear to be many more specific challenges, addressing every facet of reading you can imagine, from tackling more classics to reading regionally. I’ve linked to a few that sound intriguing below, and I’d love to hear about any others you might be giving a try.

So how was your year in reading? Did you have a specific goal in mind for 2014? Have you discovered any wonderful new reads simply because you opened yourself up to books outside your traditional comfort zone? What are you excited to read in the year ahead?

Reading Challenges for 2015

The Classics Club – Commit to reading at least 50 classics (of your choice) over a 5-year period.

2015 TBR Pile Challenge – Commit to reading 12 books that have been on your TBR pile for a year or more.

Reading England 2015 – Travel England by reading one book per county for as many as you choose to tackle.

The Pre-Printing Press Challenge – Read some serious oldies, such as Beowulf or History of the Peloponnesian War.

The Literary Movement Challenge – Read a book (or more) each month for that month’s assigned literary movement, such as Romanticism, Post-Modernism, etc.

Victorian Bingo Challenge – Read Victorian novels that fulfill a Bingo card of statements, one book per square.

Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015 – Read books to fulfill the 50 statements/categories on the challenge listing.

Happy Book Day!

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Happy book release day to Nalini Singh, whose SHIELD OF WINTER is now available in mass market paperback. Those of you waiting patiently for the soft cover edition can scoop it up now online and at your favorite bookstore.

Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch—if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life. For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake….

Having rebuilt her life after medical “treatment” that violated her mind and sought to suffocate her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she’ll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption. But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness….

As an added bonus, the paperback includes some deleted scenes. Happy reading!

 

 

Reading Material for Writers

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As promised, I’m back with further gift ideas for the writers in your life, with a focus on buying them things to read. You may, of course, choose to simply provide your special writer with an enormous gift card to the book retailer of your choice, and no doubt that will make them very happy. However, if you want to be a bit more specific and personal, here are a few recommendations to check out.

Certain writing-related books get named quite frequently. They are wonderful classics, and deserve to be mentioned, but you should also keep in mind that many writers already have dogeared copies of these babies. But for the sake of thoroughness, I’ll run through them:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott — General writing advice mixed with personal history/anecdotes.

On Writing by Stephen King — Part memoir, part excellent writing advice.

Story by Robert McKee — On story structure, focusing primarily on screenwriting, but applicable to all fiction.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass — Advice on taking your writing to the next level.

These barely scrape the surface, of course, as books about writing seem almost as abundant as books in general some days. However, they are some of the most popular, and for good reason.

I also like to recommend the following writing-related books. Some are also well known, others less so, but I find they each offer good tips and inspiration.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose — Thoughtful analysis on the reading process and how writers can learn from the works they read.

The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante — A step-by-step guide focusing on short fiction, but applicable to all storytelling craft.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks — Another way of looking at story structure.

The Write-Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer — A huge collection of writing exercises to help get the words flowing.

The Elements of Style Illustrated by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White — The classic style guide, updated with fun illustrations.

Beyond books, subscriptions make great gifts for writers. They’re the gift that keeps giving all year long, plus in some cases they help the writer get a fix on what a certain publication is looking for so that they can in turn submit their own efforts. Here’s an assortment of both informational and entertaining periodicals for the various writers on your shopping list.

The Writer — A magazine filled with advice, interviews, and other information pertaining to the writing life.

Poets & Writers — A bi-monthly magazine focused on more literary writing, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with an excellent list of upcoming contest deadlines, grants, etc., and annual issues dealing with MFA programs, writers’ retreats, and so on.

Publishers Weekly — The industry magazine for publishing. Much more business oriented than writing oriented.

Top 50 Literary Magazines – One site’s list of top literary magazines with links to each one. An easy reference to some of the most popular magazines currently published.

Asimov’s Science Fiction — Magazine for short science fiction, reviews, etc.

Apex – A magazine for science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine — Publishes short crime and mystery fiction.

There are many, many additional publications available, especially if you are shopping for a reader open to digital subscriptions, as some online publications do not issue print copies. For writers who love their e-readers, another option is a subscription reading service such as Oyster or Scribd, which allows unlimited access to their library of books for a monthly charge. Be sure you know what type of e-reader the person has before making digital purchases, as some services are not compatible with older models.

Wishing you all happy shopping, and some great reading of your own!

Happy Book Day!

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A big congratulations to Nalini Singh and Milla Vane (otherwise known as Meljean Brook), both of whom have novellas in the new NIGHT SHIFT anthology, which hits stores today. Both of these ladies write fabulous paranormal fiction, and their contributions to this collection are no exception. Nalini delves into her Psy-Changeling world and gives us Bastien’s story, while Milla introduces us to a warrior princess who must tame The Beast of Blackmoor. Plus novellas make the perfect holiday read; they’re shorter bites you can gobble up while waiting for the turkey to roast or for a store to open early Friday morning. So check it out!

 

A Readathon Recap

A couple of weeks back, I blogged about the difficulty of finding sufficient time to read, to really sit down and get lost in a book for hours on end the way you might have as a kid, or as an adult on a lazy, beach vacation. Opportunities for more than a snatched half hour seem minimal, between work and family and all the other things populating our lives. And so, this past weekend, November 15-16, I participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon, the goal of which was to spend 24 hours reading over a 48-hour period.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off. Normally I spend part of my weekend working, so it took a bit of midnight oil over the week to get to a place where I felt I could take the time off, and ultimately I did sneak a couple of work tasks in on Saturday afternoon. As a result, I read for about 22 hours instead of 24, but I’m certainly not going to complain.

So how did I do it? First, I decided that despite living in California, I was going to do the challenge “live” on east coast time, since the organizers of the event were in New York. That way I could participate in all the challenges they set up and be more or less in sync with them as they blogged, Tweeted, etc. Also, that meant that I’d finish the challenge at 9pm Sunday my time, rather than midnight, and actually get to bed at a decent time (at least theoretically). Then I gave myself permission to ignore chores. Dishes got rinsed and shoved in the dishwasher, but beyond that I ordered take out instead of cooking, left the Sunday paper sitting outside my door all day, and so on.

Friday night I settled on the couch with a stack of pre-picked books on the coffee table, a glass of iced tea, my laptop (for Tweeting updates and checking challenges), and a notebook for tracking time started and stopped. Then I got down to reading.

Over the course of the weekend, I’m pleased to say I read three complete books, half of a fourth, a short story, and several essays. My “big read” was Tana French’s IN THE WOODS, the first title in her Dublin Murder Squad series, which I’ve had on the TBR list for ages and I knew, based on the recommendations of so many people, I would love. It’s not a hugely long book, but over 400 pages in trade, with smallish print, so I read it in chunks and broke it up with some nonfiction as the weekend progressed. In that way, I also read Peter Ackroyd’s LONDON UNDER: THE SECRET HISTORY BENEATH THE STREETS, a fairly short history of the city’s underpinnings, including relics from Roman times, the water and sewer systems, the building of the Underground, and the tunnels where the government lurked during WWII; and Peter Mendelsund’s WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE READ, which is all about how the words on the page translate to images in our mind, and includes some fabulous graphics and illustrations. My partial read was NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I look forward to finishing, but of course, having returned to the real, non-readathon world, I have not picked up since Sunday night. I also read the title short story in BOBCAT AND OTHER STORIES by Rebecca Lee, and the first several essays in Roxane Gay’s BAD FEMINIST.

The result of my reading binge? I feel human again. Like my truest self. I’ve always loved to read, and this weekend just served to remind me how important it is to my general well-being and happiness that I get some time periodically to read books purely for pleasure, of my own choosing, with absolutely no relation to the books I read for work purposes. It didn’t hurt that I knew a bunch of like-minded folk were busily reading at the same time, all over the globe, coming together periodically to announce they’d finished another book, or to take funny photos for the readathon challenges.

If you’re interested in the details of the readathon, do check out the Tumblr or check the #24in48 tag on Twitter. And I’ll leave you with my contribution to one of the weekend challenges — Spine Poetry. The idea was to choose several books and stack them so their titles read one after another became a short poem.

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