I am participating in the amazingly fun and fulfilling Nonfiction November this month. Lots of book bloggers are chiming in here and there with Becca (I’m Lost in Books) hosting this week’s question:
What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?
This is a huge question for anyone to tackle. Our world suffers from too many folks living in echo chambers consuming only what reinforces their beliefs. Reading can change that. Being intentional about reading will definitely change that.
When thinking about diversity in reading I settled on two points: I like to read in pairs and I really like when smart people write about things outside of their life experience.
When I say read in pairs, I mean to intentionally read both sides of the coin. Are you reading a smart philosophical book on humanism or atheism? Then follow it with a smart philosophical book on Christianity. Reading about the downfall of marriage in society? Then pick up a book by an author that carefully posits how they think society is evolving. Read people you disagree with. Argue with them and scribble in the margins. I really enjoy reading Thomas Sowell. Agree with him or not – the dude is smart and well researched. But I follow his books with (and really enjoy) Noam Chomsky who is on the other side of the political spectrum but just as smart, well researched and passionate.
But stay away from blowhards. I do not care if you are reading about Christianity, homosexuality, women’s rights, food deserts, or politics every issue has blowhards (and for some reason we keep letting them wrote books). Do not read the blowhards. Do some research and read the smart careful compassionate writers from both sides. (My rule of thumb is that if an author has their face on the cover or back cover of their book – then I usually keep looking pass as they are trading on their personality and not what they are talking about. That’s not a golden rule by any means, but it’s a start.)
Speaking to my second point (smart people writing about things outside of their life experiences), I have a lot of books about the history of Western Civilization. Mostly written by white folks. But do you know which is my favorite? The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter. She’s African-American. The way she presented her thoughts and research was so refreshing. Nothing super earth shattering, but her understanding of the implications of how a people are formed and create culture were new to me. And I am convinced it’s because of who she is and her life experiences (plus all of her book learning). She’s a great writer. A smart writer. When you find one of those be sure to latch on.
Diversity in reading is hard to do often out of my comfort level. But my life is richer for reading books and writers like these. I know I am more empathetic to folks that are “not like me” and hopefully more compassionate (hard to rate yourself on that one).
The world would be much improved if folks sought out diverse viewpoints rather than being satisfied with their comfort zone-defined bubbles.