What do I read next: Diversifying my nonfiction

Dear Ravenous Readers,

I have been looking at my list of recent reads, and I couldn’t help but notice that I’ve been reading a lot of books written by white men. I’d love to pick up a few great books by women and authors of color, especially if they’re narrative nonfiction. I might pick up a literary award winner or two, but don’t read too much fiction. I tend to like books about the here and now, but wouldn’t mind some history.


Expanding my Viewpoint

Dear Viewpoint,

It’s always good to notice a pattern in your reading and try to break it. There have been some awesome books published, even just this year, that fit into your criteria.

The first thing you’re going to want to pick up is Roxane Gay’s Hunger. Not because I’m ordering you to read it first, but because it’s going to take several sittings to get through it. It’s so intense and heartbreakingly uncomfortable, that you might not want to keep going. But do it anyway; it’s worth it.

In the meantime, here are a bunch of one-sitting reads that can break up your Hunger experience:

  • Toni Morrison has made her space in literature with her fiction, but her most recent publication, The Origin of Others, looks at her own works and the work of others, and discusses where the concept of the Other, especially black people in America, originated, developed, and solidified.
  • Loving by Sheryll Cashin (who will be coming to the Tucson Festival of Books in 2018) is a fascinating look at the relationships, both romantic and otherwise, between white Americans and their countrymen of color. The first half dives into the history of these relationships, while the second looks at how that has changed and continued to change since the conclusion of Loving v. Virginia.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, Or, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions is a good follow-up to We Should All Be Feminists, furthering that books thoughts and updating the situation, while also acting as a personal essay about Adichie’s own life experience.
  • I Am Not your Negro was released this year in two formats: an award-winning documentary based on the initial workings of James Baldwin, and a text, which was developed from Baldwin’s own writings. It includes the script of the film as well as an introduction by the film’s director. Both works are fascinating, but the book is particularly so.

Once you’ve gotten through all of these, you’re going to need some fun in your life. That’s where Phoebe Robinson’s You Can't Touch My Hair comes in. Be prepared to cackle in delight at Robinson’s biographical essays about everything from U2 to microagressions. (So the latter is a little less cackle-worthy,  but the entire thing is still a blast. Except when you’re crying.) If you're an audiobook person, this is a particularly entertaining read. 

And then, after that bit of high, pick up Here We Are to bring it all back down again. But this collection of essays and other creations curated by Kelly Jensen is an incredibly uplifting, but occasionally heartwrenching, look into what it means to be a feminist. Essays run the gamut of intersectionality, and topics range across the board.

Finally, if you only read one work of fiction this year, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West should be it. This tiny book has made a lot of short and long lists, and deservedly so. A little genre-bendy, Exit West uses enrapturing prose and fascinating characters to tell the story of a couple in an unnamed country who find a way to leave its war-torn streets—through a doorway to another part of the world. Sounds pretty cool, right?

This is just the tip of the iceberg if you're looking to read outside of the default white male author. Check out our Diverse Voices, opens a new window page to find more lists and recommendations, and always keep an eye on new content as we share our favorites in the future. 

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Any other ideas for Expanding my Viewpoint? Let us know in the comments below.