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If you’re here and reading this blog, it’s a safe bet you enjoy the act of reading. And why shouldn’t you? Reading is fantastic. Good writing transforms your surroundings, teases your mind, allows you to explore worlds and occupations and locations you might not see otherwise. Have I ever been to Mars? No, but I’ve read Andy Weir’s The Martian, and I can tell you reading that, there were times that I thought I came close. And look, we’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the pull of a book as it grabs us and sucks us into its pages like some kind of alien tractor beam.

And I’m sure over time we’ve developed our favorites too. For me it’s Cormac McCarthy, Kurt Vonnegut and Ken Follett. These tend to be the authors I recommend most.  And for good reason;  they speak to me. But here’s the thing: All three of them are white dudes. Now, let’s get one thing straight, I’m a white dude too. There’s nothing wrong with reading and appreciating authors that look like you.

But there is also tremendous, stupendous, massive value in reading books by authors who don’t. 

The Days of Yore

Readers in 2022 have it better than anyone in recent memory when it comes to author diversity. There are LGBTQ authors, authors of color, authors on the autism spectrum sharing their writing with the world. There are authors who identify as male, female and some who identify as neither.  And let me tell you, as a reader, that opens up so many doors–doors you may not know even exist!   

When she wrote her first novel in 1859, Mary Ann Evans had to use a male pseudonym to get published. In fact, many readers today still know her as George Eliot. Joanne Rowling used her initials J.K. because she thought the ambiguity would give her Harry Potter series a better chance of getting published. After he published his seminal work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the former enslaved man’s ability to write such a powerful work was called into question by white people across the country. 

And before I get any further, let me first acknowledge that these instances are by no means isolated. Prejudice against writers for their race, gender, or sexual orientation still happens today. Unfortunately, it will still happen tomorrow. The world has a long way to go before we eliminate prejudice. However, I do think that exposing ourselves to the voices of others who aren’t like us, who come from different cultures or socioeconomic backgrounds, can help us to reduce that gap. 

Understanding That You Don’t Understand

No matter where you are born, your culture or who your parents are, we all have a limited view of the world around us. In 100 lifetimes, we could not understand the full diversity that is the human race. And while I can’t go back and have a conversation with James Baldwin or Gabriel García Márquez, and while it is unlikely that I will ever meet Louise Erdich or Kate Bornstein, reading their works allows me to step, if only briefly, into their minds and imagination. Reading Toni Morrison won’t make you a scholar on a black genius born in Lorain, Ohio, but it can definitely expose you to her ideas and the messages and lessons she found important enough to write down. 

Reading books by people from cultures other than yours will not make you fully understand that culture, but you might get a firefly’s look into a life dramatically different from yours. With any luck, you will come away more patient, empathetic and thoughtful about the differences and similarities that exist in all of us. Plus, and let’s not minimize this point either, you’ll read some damn fine books!

Branching Into Different Genres

Some of us don’t have a problem reading diverse authors. Our problem is that we read the same genres. For some of us it’s sci-fi, for others, it’s romance, for still others, (cough, myself), it is historical fiction that floats your boat.

I think anyone who’s binged Tom Clancy can tell you, reading the same thing over and over gets stale. Even if you love a genre, it can be refreshing to step away and venture into fresh territory. There are wonderful books just waiting for you in a genre you’ve never tried before. 

What are you waiting for? 

If you’re ready to read outside your comfort zone, buddy read with us at The Chaptr! We place a heavy emphasis on diverse book selections–including diverse authors, viewpoints and characters, with the goal of helping you to read something that you may not normally read. 

Kyle Iverson

Author Kyle Iverson

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