Monday, January 9, 2012

Reading Goals for 2012 and Bibliodiversity

I first heard the term "bibliodiversity" on the wonderful Books on the Nightstand podcast and it got me thinking. It can mean a lot of different things; in Books on the Nightstand, host Ann Kingman talked about an article she'd read in an academic journal, where the term referred to the number of books published in different languages. But then Ann and her co-host Michael Kindness found other ways to define the term: reading books in print or electronically- or audio; genre- going outside your comfort zone, reading biographies if you don't normally, of self-help. You could also define it as reading books from different cultures, translated from different languages, from different parts of the world.

I have to admit I do not normally consciously practice bibliodiversity.

As far as format goes, with rare exceptions I'm a print reader. Audiobooks are great for the car and ebooks are great for travel, but 99% of the time I don't bother with alternative formats. I just don't.

Oh sure, I read books from lots of different countries, translated out of different languages and from different cultures, but I rarely do so on purpose. Some bloggers track the racial and gender and sexual-orientation and national breakdown of their reading, then consciously go back to fill in the gaps. Honestly, I don't care. I just read what I'm interested in.  If a book appeals to me, I read it. Or at least, I buy it and plan on reading it. But I don't keep statistics (except for the end of year wrapup, which I do out of curiosity only) I don't worry about covering bases or ticking off boxes on a checklist.

Somehow despite my lackadaisical attitude towards diversity, I've ended up with a pretty diverse reading list. When I bought a Moleskine Book Journal last year I decided to start listing books that I owned in different categories and it amazed me to see the different areas my to-be-read library covers. I have lists of Italian books, Irish books, Eastern European books, South Asian books, Hispanic books, books about Boston, Jewish books, Islamic and Arabic literature, Christian religious fiction (but not "CF" per se necessarily), as well as the aforementioned science fiction, young adult and other categories, even nonfiction (it's true!).  I know there are topics I'm missing. So what?

Last year I read very consciously by category. I listed out the months and assigned a category to each. In January I read new releases; in March, books about Ireland; in June, backlisters I've always meant to get to. And so on. I don't know what I'm going to do yet in 2012. I have a good number of 2012 galleys and recent releases from fall 2011 that I still want to read, but what's catching my eye now are the oddball finds and longtime bookshelf bridesmaids that have been waiting for my attention for ages- some literally for years. So we'll see. Maybe I'll end up with lists and plans, or maybe I won't. Or maybe I'll make a decision later today and change my mind tomorrow. Either way I'll still be reading!

What about you? Do you approach your reading with goals and intentions, or do you pick up whatever suits your fancy? Do you worry about cultural and/or racial diversity? Have you taken measures to correct what you felt were gaps in your reading? How and why did you decide that your reading had gaps in the first place? If you're reading steadily, what does it mean to have gaps? Sometimes I think there's a kind of me-too mentality that drives a lot of the urge people have to show how diverse their reading is, or make their reading more diverse, like they have something to prove. Do you read to prove a point? Is that what reading should even be about? I say, expand your horizons if you're inclined to (and books are a wonderful way to do that) but reading shouldn't be about proving yourself to others. It should just be about growing in new directions, but doing it for you.