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The Conscious-Unconscious Biases in My Reading Habits

So I was taking a quick look at my blog stats and I’ve reviewed a little under 350 books (yay me) between December 2009 and September 2016. The tag cluster suggest (accurately) that I read a lot of Canadian literature and almost exclusively novels. No surprises there.

Then I got to wondering about the distribution in my reading across gender and racial lines in authorship. I did a quick count of the first 150 books reviewed (in years 2009-2011 roughly – 100 books in 2011, so there’s that). Knowing, of course, that these aren’t precise, I was not surprised to learn that the vast majority of the novels I read are written by white people (about 80%) (I say I wasn’t surprised, which isn’t the same as not being troubled). I was surprised to find this period suggests I read a majority of male authors (about 65%). And without doing a deep dive into the biographies of authors I’d guess that these authors likewise fall into the dominant identity categories across the board.

Given that I’ve spent time in my posts opining on the value of reading for offering readers new perspectives and that my literary training came from an institution proud of its effort to expose and counter canons, I’d say I have a healthy heap of hypocrisy in my reading habits.

I’m not sure yet what to do with these observations. Putting it out to you – dear readers – how do you (or do you?) work to ensure breadth in your reading habits? Am I assigning unwarranted value to diversity in authorship (when perhaps I’d be better to consider my genre range? or something else?)? Is it time for me to embark on another reading project (akin to 10-10-12) that encourages me to read outside my canon?

Discuss!

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Kindred: The Time Travelling Slave Narrative You Hoped Wouldn’t Be So… 2016.

octaviaebutler_kindred

You read a book like Octavia Butler’s Kindred and you get to thinking some bleak thoughts. Published in the 1970s, the ‘fantasy’ novel follows Dana through a time travelling slave narrative. Opening in the 1970s the reader is immediately hooked as Dana travels back in time to the pre-civil war South and finds herself – a black woman – among slavery. The mechanics of time travel in the novel are explained by virtue of the ‘kindred’ connection between Dana and her 1800something ancestor, Rufus: Dana is called back to the past each time Rufus is in danger of dying so that she can save his life; Dana is called back to the present each time her own life is in danger. Continue reading

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Summer Reading List: Get Excited for Reviews?

Thanks for all the suggestions on what to read this summer. I’ve collected your suggestions and decided what to read:

I’m stopping at seven to make space for the collasal investment of time that will be Infinite Jest. And because maybe I’ll want to read something else inbetween.

Want to read one of these with me? Let me know your choice and we can do some virtual (or physical) book clubbing.

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Golden Son: In which my love affair with fantasy and the Red Rising series is left out in the rain

I was so eager to continue the journey started in Red Rising  I abandoned all sense and drove to the bookstore for the second book in the trilogy. Don’t panic. I started by checking the library: checked out. I then tried the Bookshelf: sold out. So it was I found myself lined up outside the still locked doors of the Chapters at 9:00am on a Sunday. Banging down the door for the second offering because I had to know what would happen to the rebellion.

Well something happened between page one and page 250 because, restored to my senses, I abandoned the book to overnight dew and the ever-mounting pile of Things to Donate (moving = realizing you have too many books and deciding to do away with your third copy of Gone With the Wind because you probably don’t need one copy but can’t let it go). It was terrible. Makes me suspect Red Rising was terrible too, but that I was too swept up in plot to realize it.

Golden Son picks up where Red Rising left off – more or less – with Darrow/Reaper in the thick of a Star Trek-esque space battle and trying to secure power so he can take down the Society. From there it descends into political drama with characters popping in and out with such frequency and such little character development that I couldn’t figure out who anyone was, let alone why they supported one faction or the other, or why I might be – in the least – interested in their fortunes. After attempting for a fifth time to reengage with the epic battle that takes up the last sixty pages and finding myself – once again – trying to remember how they ended up on the planet, why they were there and who they were fighting I conceded defeat. Destroyed not by space lasers but by a disappointingly convoluted set of underdeveloped characters and overwrought plot.

So. If you find yourself reading Red Rising: enjoy! But. If you get to the end and are in the least bit tempted to read the second book, heed this warning: either get the library book so you’ll feel less guilty wasting your biannual book purchase on such trash OR don’t bother reading it in the first place. Pick up Dracula instead. I’m 3/4 done it and it’s so. good. (stay tuned)

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