I used to pride myself on reading widely. I studied English at university, where we were required to take courses on works ranging from the mediaeval era to the contemporary, from drama to poetry to novels. In high school I was in the International Baccalaureate programme, and we studied works from international authors like Isabel Allende and Yukio Mishima.
Since I’ve graduated, though, I’ve gravitated towards what I’ve come to think of as “my” genre; namely, YA SF/F. I throw a fair bit of adult fantasy in there, too, like Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy, because it’s really very similar to YA books in the same genre. Over the two weeks I was off work over Christmas, for instance, I read 7.5 books: the final three books of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, Susan Dennard’s Something Strange and Deadly trilogy, These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, and the first half of The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey (I finished it not long after).
Besides The Girl With All the Gifts, these books are all YA SF/F. They’re also all (again, excepting The Girl With All the Gifts) written by white women, mostly American. Even the outlier is an SF novel by a white man, so not really as much of an outlier as it might first seem. Moreover, I didn’t pick that one out myself; my mum had brought it home from the library and suggested it when I was looking for something to read, so I picked it up for lack of better options rather than because I desperately wanted to read it. I liked it (read my review here), but it’s unlikely I would have added it to my TBR pile otherwise.
The truth is, I don’t read as widely as I used to. In the past, I didn’t really need to try to read widely, because even if the majority of books I got out of the library were YA SF/F by white authors (or even largely white women), I got a lot of variety through my studies and my mum, being a librarian, has always been very good at finding books outside my usual comfort zone that I enjoy. Now that I don’t live with my parents, she still recommends books on occasion, but she’s not constantly bringing home books for me as she used to. I also have less time to read than I used to, so I find myself prioritising the books that I keep seeing mentioned on blogs and Twitter, which tend to be the ones in my genre because I follow authors in my genre and bloggers who read my genre.
My reading resolution for 2015, several weeks late as it might be, is therefore to read more books from outside my chosen genre. I’m going to read more books aimed at adults, more literary fiction, more classics, more books by people of colour. I strongly believe in reading widely not just because you can stumble upon a gem that you wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, but also because it can make you a better writer to see what people are doing outside of your genre as well as within it, and a better person to read books about and by people you don’t so easily relate to (because let’s face it, most of these white women I’m reading books by are writing about white women/teenage girls).
What about you? Do you read widely? If not, do you intend to read more widely in future, or would you rather prioritise precious reading time for the things you most desperately want to read?