At the beginning of this year I set myself a challenge: no more books by white, straight men. Or, at the very least, fewer books by white, straight men. In 2014 I finished a degree in English Literature, and if it weren’t for the elective modules that I took on 20th – 21st century literature I would have drowned in a sea of old white dudes.
One of the wonderful things about reading is that it lets you learn about life from different perspectives, cultures and privileges, but if we stick to the same old authors and books, we stick to the same old mind-sets. Besides, this year loads of amazing books came out by people who most certainly are not straight, white or male, and they deserve to have their stories heard.
During this challenge I’ve had a few slip-ups (though the three white male-authored books I’ve read have been excellent). I watched a Ted Talk by the journalist Jon Ronson and found his research into public shaming completely fascinating, so I immediately devoured all his work I could find.
In all, however, the books I have read this year by women, People of Colour, and LGBT+ people have been incredible, and I’ve really enjoyed the change in direction that my reading has taken. These books I’ve recommended are such a breath of fresh air and are far more imaginative and daring than a lot of the ‘old classics’ that everyone’s supposed to have read. In fact, when I finished the first book on this list, The Vegetarian, I re-read it again straight away and nearly vowed to never read another book because nothing could possibly top it.
My top ten recommendations are below, along with links to where you can buy them.
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang (novella)
- The Border of Paradise by Esmé Weijun Wang (novel)
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (novel)
- The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (novel)
- The Gender Games by Juno Dawson (non-fiction)
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (non-fiction essay)
- Lion: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley (the autobiography that inspired the film Lion)
- I Love Dick by Chris Kraus (novel)
- The War On Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts (non-fiction)
- Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang (collection of short stories)
One thing I’m trying to find more of is great female bisexual characters; I’m bisexual myself and would love to hear more stories from this particular community but am finding them hard to come by.
If you know of a good one, please let me know about it by getting in touch, my details are under ‘contact’ above.