A Book A Week in My Read Diverse Year

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Following my pledge to ‘Read Diverse’ in a more conscious way, I’ve assessed the 26 books I’ve read in the first 6 months of the year, as per my original interpretation of ‘diverse’ as books by writers of colour (WOC) and/or British, Asian, ‘minority ethnic’ writers (BAME). I’m more aware now that the word ‘diverse’ can also be applied to writers who are from working class backgrounds, are physically or mentally disabled, or belong to a minority social group due to gender orientation (LGBQT). Once you become aware of the difficulties experienced by writers outside the heterosexual/able-bodied/white/middle-class ‘norm’ that currently dominates the publishing industry, you will be hard pushed to ignore their voices and surely the best way to listen is to read their books. So, for the last 6 months of 2016, I’ll be more open-minded about how I interpret #ReadDiverse. My targets in January were (a) to ensure 50% of my reads are by WOC or BAME authors and (b) to increase the number of books by male authors. Here’s how I’ve done so far:

Books by or with WOC and/or BAME authors: 46% (an increase of 18% – was 28%)

Books by male authors: 42% (an increase of 14% – was also 28%)

I’m quite happy with a 40/60 male/female split, but I would like to get the first figure up to 50% by the end of the year. Here’s a list of the 26 books I’ve read to the end of June 2016 (averaging exactly one book per week which is more than usual). Mini-reviews for the first 8 books on the list are in my What Are You Reading This January post. I also did short reviews for those books which were shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for women writers.

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  1. Marlon James: ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’ (Winner 2015 Booker Prize)
  2. Hisham Bustani: ‘The Perception of Meaning’ (See my review on Zoetic Press)
  3. Kate Atkinson: ‘Life After Life’ (Prequel to ‘A God in Ruins’ which I reviewed)
  4. Jhumpa Lahiri: ‘The Lowland’ (Winner 2014 DSC Prize for S.E. Asia)
  5. Bernie McGill: ‘The Butterfly Cabinet’ (Tragic tale from elderly Irish woman)
  6. Toni Morrison: ‘God Help the Child’ (Morrison at her best, mothers beware)
  7. Sebastian Barry: ‘On Canaan’s Side’ (Another Irish woman’s eventful life)
  8. J. K. Rowling: ‘The Casual Vacancy’ (Pre-Brexit Broken Britain)
  9. Colm Toibin: ‘Brooklyn’ (A re-read after watching movie. Classic Toibin)
  10. Dermot Bolger: ‘Un Irlandais en Allemagne’ (Tested rusty French, funny)
  11. Haruki Murakami: ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ (new author for me, unique)
  12. Claire Fuller: ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ (Won 2015 Desmond Elliot prize)
  13. David Vann: ‘Aquarium’ (Less grim than his other books, beautiful in parts)
  14. Carys Bray: ‘A Song For Issy Bradley’ (enjoyed so much might re-read)
  15. Edited by Dan Coxon: ‘Being Dad’ (short stories which I helped crowdfund)
  16. Chigozie Obioma: ‘The Fisherman’ (shortlisted 2015 Booker Prize)
  17. Dervla Murphy: ‘The Waiting Land’ (Travel writing on Nepal in 1950s)
  18. Ruth Ozeki: ‘A Tale For The Time Being’ (shortlisted 2013 Booker Prize)
  19. Louise Phillips: ‘The Game Changer’ (Commercial Crime genre not my bag)
  20. Cynthia Bond: ‘Ruby’ (Shortlisted for Baileys, my book of 2016 so far)
  21. Lisa McInerney: ‘The Glorious Heresies’ (Winner Baileys Prize, my 2nd choice)
  22. Hannah Rothschild: ‘The Improbability of Love’ (My mini-review says it all)
  23. Kit de Waal: ‘My Name is Leon’ (superb, foster care from child’s P.O.V.)
  24. Anne Enright: ‘The Green Road’ (shortlisted Baileys, solid Irish novel)
  25. Kazuo Ishiguro: ‘The Buried Giant’ (fable-like, addictive, love Ishiguro)
  26. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ (A true ‘classic’, read it if you have missed it up until now as I had)

I’ve also read the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology for 2016, ‘A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed’ which includes my piece, ‘When She Was Good’. I was delighted to have my submission accepted as I was about to give up on Flash Fiction after 3 pieces were longlisted but not shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize. Another of those 3 pieces, ‘Papa Smurf’s Revenge’ has been accepted for publication in Issue 7 of Firefly Magazine, so maybe I’ll think again. In the meantime, I will say this: reading a book a week does wonders for your own writing – first a reader, second a writer as someone said. Thank you for reading and please comment if you’ve read any of the above books or if you have an opinion on ‘Read Diverse 2016’.

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