It’s week three of the Nonfiction November challenge. And this week’s topic, being hosted by Becca at I’m Lost in Books, is diversity in nonfiction writing.
Becca offers a few questions to consider: What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to a book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different cultures do you think of as books of diversity?
‘Diversity in books’ surely has to mean reading a wide and varied range of fiction and nonfiction. A diverse reading list would cover different genres, books written by both male and female authors of different ages, ethnicities and nationalities, and books from and about different parts of the world, different time periods in history and diverse local contexts. Such local diversity could include those from different social, cultural, and religious backgrounds covering a spread of political beliefs. A good diverse book list would include authors from minority groups in any society.
So how do I rate according to my own diversity definition? Firstly, I’m rarely intentional about ensuring diversity of authors, settings, genres etc. Having said that, I do love to read many different kinds of books – both fiction and non-fiction. I particularly love reading narrative nonfiction about people, cultures and lives very different from my own. You can see from the library shelf photo above that my recent nonfiction reading has covered countries that no longer exist – the former USSR and the former GDR – as well as Italy, the USA and Iran. And you can’t see the e-books in the photo, which also took me inside North Korea. If I added fictionto the list, there would be good coverage of Africa and other parts of Europe as well. So I think I’m quite a diverse reader on countries and cultures etc. However, I’ve only recently begun to look at the authors I choose and be a bit more intentional about including a bigger range of writers with more diverse origins.
I think I also do reasonably well in diversity of subjects. Other people, places and cultures will always win out, and will include both modern and historical settings, but I also enjoy reading about other subjects I love. This includes languages and linguistics, social issues (especially poverty, justice, asylum seekers), popular psychology (Susan Cain’s Quiet remains an all-time favourite nonfiction read) and travel. I also read a lot of Christian theology, though less than I was doing a few years ago when I read little else while in theological college. These days I focus more on practical theology – books about church leadership, mission, spirituality and creative worship seem to dominate my ‘new books’ shelf. And I still dip into biblical commentaries whenever I’m preparing to preach.
I notice most other participants in this challenge have invited suggestions for other categories and books to consider. I hardly dare do this as my own TBR list is already so unrealistically long, it seems unlikely I’ll ever get through it all. And, in the meantime, exactly as a I predicted in week one of this challenge, I continue adding to it daily as I come across other books and other readers’ recommendations. So do feel free to offer me even more suggestions – I love all kinds of nonfiction books. And I think it’s possibly even true to say that I almost love discovering new titles and adding them to the list even more than I do actually getting around to reading them. Is that just me or is that something you do too?