I need diverse books; Or, gaps in my reading

Librarians don’t really have off switches. I’ve known librarians to start looking stuff up on their phones in the middle of dinner to answer diners’ questions, perform readers’ advisory in bookstores, and alphabetize anything that can be alphabetized*. Given my reputation for being a reader, I get asked all the time for book recommendations. I’ll give book recommendations anywhere I am: Barnes & Noble, Facebook, Twitter, grocery stores, dentist’s office**, etc. (Several bookstores owe me kickbacks for selling people books.)

The only downside to being a walking book recommender is that, inevitably, people will ask for books about things outside of my wheelhouse. This happened to me last week and I’ve been annoyed at myself ever since. Sure, I could find books on the subject this person wanted, but I couldn’t honestly recommend them because I hadn’t read books featuring Islam and Muslim characters. I liked to think I read widely. I clearly haven’t been reading widely enough.

Realizing that I have a gap in my reading has reminded me of the importance of the We Need Diverse Books movement. I can do my bit to get publishers to produce more books by and about people who are brown, speak other languages than English, have different creeds, are gay or transgender, and on and on. It’s easy to stay inside one’s wheelhouse and play it safe. But I want to take advantage of the magic of reading to put my inside another person’s perspective and their world. I want to read diversely for my own sake—and for the sake of readers who want to broaden their own horizons with great reads.

* I swear I’m not just talking about myself here.

** It’s really hard to talk books when someone’s fingers are in your mouth, but I managed.


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