Nonfiction November: Diversity and Nonfiction

Diverse Nonfiction

This week’s Nonfiction November topic is Diversity and Nonfiction. When thinking about diverse reading, my focus usually shifts to authors first. For a few years, I’ve made it a priority to keep track of the books I read in hopes of reading as diversely as possible. Amanda from Bookriot made a video that does an amazing job summarizing thoughts that very closely parallel mine, particularly as she explains the importance of tracking reading.

Last month I noticed that more of of my nonfiction reading was coming from men, even though I tend to read more female authored fiction. Since then, thanks in part to Nonfiction November, I’ve shifted my reading and now 68% of the nonfiction titles I read this year were written by women. I was also surprised to see that more of the nonfiction I read so far this year (25%) has been written by authors of color than fiction (20%). All of this sounds so number focused and cold, but a major sticking point for me is making sure that books from diverse voices are read so they continue to be published, hopefully in greater numbers than they are now.

When it comes to topic diversity, I tend to read nonfiction that focuses on the United States or books with a worldwide scope. I think this comes from years of teaching American History and just a general interest in American cultural issues more than anything else. However, I think there’s quite a bit of diversity embedded in those cultural issues, as a big chunk of my nonfiction is focused on social justice, poverty and feminism. Still, I’ve only read a few nonfiction books focused on singular events or issues in other countries and would be interested in reading more.

It seems easier to find memoirs by women and writers of color than general nonfiction. I’d be willing to bet this is a longstanding issue in publishing itself, not that the books aren’t being written. In fact, here are a few great books you can grab right now:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (review tomorrow!)

The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox

Our Declaration by Danielle Allen

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Drift by Rachel Maddow

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

 

  • Bad Feminist <3 <3 <3

    I've been hearing really good things about Just Mercy, and I'll have to check out the others :)

  • Does your book tracking include noting the author’s cultural background? All of this week’s posts on paying attention to the author’s background has made me realize whatever nonfiction I pick-up is mostly based on subject matter.

  • Anita LeBeau

    I admit I don’t track by author’s gender or race. I’m sure I don’t read very diversely. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important, I’m just not sure how much I want to track and pursue other books. I don’t track pages read either. My spreadsheet is big enough…ha ha.

    • I’ve really loved the books I’ve found by branching out a bit, but it can get a little time consuming with the tracking.

  • Sarah Lisle

    So, you’re making me need more stats on my own reading, heading for excel right now . . .

  • ohhhh I LOVE your take on this topic!! Looking forward to tomorrow’s review. :)

  • I didn’t write my own post on the diversity topic–just got too busy this week. But you’ve just made me think–how many nonfiction books (not memoirs) by authors of color have I read recently? I know I have in the past, but not recently . . . and that’s not good. As you say, this may have a lot to do with what books get published …. but then we need to show the publishing industry that we want to read those books!

  • Great post! I really like keeping track of my reading stats and I agree that it’s an important way to make sure we’re supporting the kind of diversity we want to see in the publishing world.