One of my goals for 2017 is to read more diversely, but I do not think I can say I accomplished that goal if I do not follow with a second, related resolution: read less problematic books.
Yes, we can have problematic favorites. I have a lot of them. I’m doing my best to understand their problems and to reshape my view of some of my favorite books based on others’ critiques. I have a whole lot of privilege in my life, but I’m trying to look past it and to become a more aware, conscientious reader.
In this spirit, I have been adding diverse books to my TBR while scratching others off it when they are called out for harmful representation. Some of the books I have ex-ed out are upcoming releases, but most of them are books that have existed for a while and that I meant to read eventually.
A lot of the books I crossed off my TBR list were ones that I was never extremely passionate about reading anyway. It does not feel like a big loss to make a mental note to avoid a book that I had not yet felt compelled to pick up, especially if it had existed for months or years already.
But other books? They are written by favorite authors. They are continuations of beloved series. They are books that I wanted to rush to defend when people first called them problematic.
Thankfully, I listened instead of jumping in rashly, and now I see where other people were coming from. It was a rough transition, but one I’m proud of making.
There was one thing that I constantly had to remind myself of throughout the process:
I can read any book. There are hundreds of thousands of books out there, with new ones being published every month. There is literally no such thing as a “must read”—no matter how hyped a book is, or how much I love the author’s other work.
I keep seeing favorite authors’ books being criticized, especially when new releases are announced. I’ll be honest: my first impulse is to ignore the criticisms. It’s my favorite author, I think. How could I not read everything they write?
But then I catch myself, and remind myself that I don’t have to read anything.
If I don’t read a favorite author’s new book, does it actually matter? If I don’t read a hyped book, who cares?
I’m the one who will be experiencing the stories. I’m the one who will be giving up my time and money to enjoy the work of authors. What books other people think I should read—even if that “other person” is just Me from a year ago—should not matter. That’s part of growing as a reader and as a person.
I read about 50 books of my choice a year. That’s a tiny drop in comparison to the ocean of books out there. That means I need to think carefully about which 50 books I decide to A) spend money on, and B) read, review, and feature on my blog.
Reminding myself that there is no way for me to read every book that exists helps me deal with not reading books that I always assumed I’d read. With so many non-problematic (or at least less problematic) books out there, why would I give my time, energy, and support to blatantly problematic books?
I can read anything. And every time I remind myself of that, the excuses for continuing my dedication to problematic favorites get less and less believable.
What do you think? Was this post relatable? Have you given up any favorite authors when they were called out? Do you think this advice will be helpful in the future?