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.

17 comments:

Becky (Page Turners) said...

I generally have no intentions, or make any point of reading anything in particular. I just read whatever takes me fancy at the particular time. That's why I don't do challenges or anything like that. Sometimes I have ideas in the back of my head, like Í would like to read more science fiction'or Í would like to explore crime fiction' but I still rarely make much of a point in changing my reading to do it.

Im sure some people would have something to say about equality, and reading to learn and improve outselves etc, which sounds nice in theory, but in practice I just want to read what I'm in the mood for!

mominsanity said...

Not consciously at all. I read whatever sounds interesting at the moment that I'm looking. I find that if I force myself to read certain things it begins to feel more and more like work and then its less enjoyable.

Harvee said...

I'm naturally interested in international and multi cultural books, so there is diversity in my reading although I don't get to read as many as I'd like! Right now I am going after memoirs by yoga teachers or those who practice it!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

My blog was created to fill a gap in my personal reading and also on the net. I had read a lot of pulp-fiction. I asked myself how many African writers have I read and realised they were few. Could be counted on my fingers. To me they define who I am and therefore I've to know more about books written by Africans. However, one cannot read in isolation so I added non-African writers. Then I created a list of 100 books I need to read in five years. This was to help me read some highly-mentioned books I never got to read because I did not know of them. And even though I have this challenge I still read books not limited to them. Again, I created the African Reading Challenge to read more books from different African countries like Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Madagascar etc.

However, what I don't do is restrict my reading to these. About 80% of books I read re penned by Africans. I take stats of my reading but they don't inform my reading. However, I sometimes want to read other books mentioned by others because that's the only way one get to know a book.

Anna said...

I'm with you; I read what interests me at the time and don't keep track of race, gender, and other stuff in my reading. I also read just print books, with the rare audiobook on a car trip. I'm all for reading diversely, though.

Vasilly said...

I'm with Nana: I read to fill in gaps. I also read for entertainment but that purpose can only go so far. I don't know about people reading diversely just to prove a point. I doubt that because it's such a hard thing to do. After awhile, you're going to stop reading.

One of my goals this year is for 50% of my reading to be out of my comfort zone. I choose that number because sometimes it's so easy to read what's recommended by others and often that's the same book over and over again. It's so easy to pick up something that's in the genre I'm used to but often times those books are "meh".

Zibilee said...

I sort of have been guided by what arrives in the mailbox, which is starting to be less of what I want for this year. Since September, I have been reading more of the things I have wanted to, or things that have been lingering. I have also had more of a love for audiobooks, and am surprised at how many of those that I have read in the past few months. This year, the goal is to be more selective, read more non fiction, more classics, and more audiobooks. I think that should ensure that I have a very diverse reading year! Great topic today, Marie!

kinnareads said...

I like reading diverse books and make a plan to do so simply because I experience the world in the books that I read and what fun would it be it I only got one view of it. In doing so, I've found a home in East European lit for instance. What the book market promotes are choice that I didn't get to make. So, I do go out of my way to find books about other cultures and realities that are different from what I know.

Laura said...

I think about diversity but not too obsessively. Still, at the end of 2011 I looked back on my reading and found some aspects that were "less diverse," and then I had to decide whether I wanted to change that. Over the years I've fallen off the "books in translation" bandwagon, and I'm reading less non-fiction. I'm consciously trying to remedy the latter in 2012.

Pam said...

I have no "goals" for my reading. I read what interests me. I do, sometimes, try to fill the "gaps" in my reading with regards to classics that I haven't yet read. But other than that, I read whatever catches my fancy. I decided a long time ago, that there should be no "shoulds" in reading. For me, it is entertainment and for pleasure. It's not an academic exercise.

Alexia561 said...

I try to read outside my comfort zone every now and again, but usually just read whatever grabs my interest. I do get in reading ruts sometimes, but don't deliberately try to fill in any so-called gaps in what I read. Guess I'm not bibliodiverse!

bermudaonion said...

I don't set goals and usually read whatever strikes my fancy. I do like to read about other cultures, but don't keep track of how diverse my reading is.

Deb Baker said...

". . . 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." So well said, Marie. In the past I've read for work, read what caught my eye, read what people recommended, *tried* to get to the bookshelf bridesmaids or my teetering to-read piles.Other than taking part the Europa Challange and a library book club, I have no plan for this year. I'll see where books lead me.

eveningreader said...

I read whatever suits my fancy. I don't worry about what other people are reading, or about diversity. If I read a compelling review of a book, I add it to my list, and I pay no attention to whether it's a classic, or whether it's written by an author from a specific country, and so forth.

I agree completely with your comment about the "me-too" mentality. That seemed to ramp up a few years ago, just before I stopped blogging...and in fact for a while it was one of the reasons I was enjoying myself less. I felt like I'd been catapulted back to graduate school, where everyone had an agenda, and what you read (outside of required reading for classes) had to make a statement of some sort. While I think it's fine to pursue diversity in one's reading, I actually find it kind of tacky that people feel the need to point it out.

Now I am back to blogging because I missed it, and I'm keeping my eyes on my own TBR pile and only adding things, again, because they strike my fancy.

Amy said...

I love that term, bibliodiversity! While I don't consciously read diversely, at one point I did. My attitude and tastes now point me to diverse reads automatically, I just end up picking them up. You seem to be the same. I think the conscious effort is really only required when you're in that rut of only reading one type of books (i.e. no translations, no other countries, little or no female authors, etc). Once you make yourself think about it and try more outside of that, you realize they are great, and lose that unconscious bias. If that makes sense?

Molly said...

What a thought-provoking post!

I am trying to work my way into the 21st century and use my electronic reader more - but I must confess that I still prefer the old-fashioned print books. But I never gave a thought to categorizing my books from a "diversification" standpoint. I love the idea that you used a moleskin for your book records and I think I might adopt that system myself.

Rebecca Reid said...

Through my years blogging, I've gone through a few phases. For a while, I purposely tried to read more diversely, trying graphic novels (which were new to me) and a little bit in different genres. Now I've settled back in to a comfort zone: I read what I am pretty sure I'm going to like. I'm more willing to try other genres, countries, etc. but I know what I'll read for the most part. There is just too little time to read EVERYTHING.