I think we can all agree that last year was… not the best. In February, my reading habits just went down the drain. And I can’t even say my reading year started off great, because I made a pretty bad mistake. When I published my 2020 reading list, I inadvertently put together a list of entirely white authors. While I admitted my mistake (and ended up scrapping most of the list anyway), I still don’t feel great about it.
To try and make up for it, I set myself a challenge of reading at least one book by a POC author for every book I read by a white person. Which didn’t go quite as I’d hoped (I wrote a whole post about why and what I learned). But you all know I’m a stubborn overachiever when it comes to reading, so we are trying again in 2021!
In order to make that slightly easier on myself (and make up for last year’s mistake), I decided to make every single book on this year’s reading list diverse in some way. I also made sure at least half of the authors on this list are persons of color. I also want to read more globally this year, so I made sure to include a few of books set outside the US.
To that end, here are the books on my reading list for this year:
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
For some reason, giant classic novels have really been calling to me lately. But I’ve been resisting, solely because last year was very slumpy, and I felt this might make it worse. But it’s time. I actually had a few other big books I was considering adding to my TBR this year (namely Don Quixote, Les Miserables, and The Brothers Karamazov) and decided to choose just one. Because I’m trying to not be too overly ambitious this year, and my sanity feels precarious. I ended up choosing The Count of Monte Cristo after a lovely reader reminded me that Dumas was, in fact, black. I was looking to read more classics by non-white authors (nothing against white authors, there are just a lot of them), so this seemed perfect. I’ve been hearing great things – it seems like quite a few people read this in 2020 – so I’m really looking forward to it.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
This has been on my radar for quite a while. And, to be honest, I have flipped back and forth on whether or not it actually sounds like something I wanted to read. But apparently I hadn’t read the synopsis all the way through. Because this sounds fantastic to me now, and I think it’s something I’m really going to enjoy. I’ve been wanting to read more historical fiction, and I like that this seems a little bit more fun than what I usually read. But still impactful with a great message. I’m really hoping I’ll love this one.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
If I’m being honest, I do kind of have hesitations about this book. It doesn’t totally sound like something I’ll love. However, I have learned that stepping out of my comfort zone can end very well for me. And I’ve heard amazing things about this book, so I’m going to take a chance on it. I do like the idea of this book, so I’m really curious to see how I end up feeling about it. Especially since this has such incredible reviews. It could go either way. We’ll see what happens.
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum
You may or may not know this about me, but I am second-generation Palestinian-American on my father’s side. And I haven’t read a single book with a Palestinian-American character. Which is something I really want to fix. And this seems like the perfect book with which to do that. I didn’t really get the whole cultural experience in my childhood (I definitely noticed differences when I was around my dad’s relatives), so I’m pretty curious to see how much of this I identify with. Could be interesting. Also, there’s a mystery element, which I’m all for. Add in the great reviews, and I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet.
I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki
I really wanted to read this last year, but it just didn’t happen. But I am very excited about this one. it is a Japanese classic basically making fun of rich people. Which just sounds like exactly the kind of classic I want to read. Oh, also the main character is a cat. Cynical cat pointing out how ridiculous we silly humans are is something I very much need in my life. This also fits into quite a few categories of things I’d like to read more of this year – it’s a classic, it’s translated, it’s by a non-white author, and it’s set in a country that isn’t my own. It’s perfect.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
I was definitely planning on reading this when it came out. But by the time I got my hands on the book (the day it was released), I was just in major slump territory. I considered forcing myself to read this, but I knew I’d enjoy it less. So, I waited. I definitely want to get to it this year, hopefully sooner rather than later. I think I want to listen to the audiobook and I have a few I want to finish before then. But I will definitely be picking this up in 2021.
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
I’ve put off reading this for years, just because cancer was honestly kind of a sore subject since I’ve lost so many family members to the disease. But last year, I read The Gene and realized how much I enjoyed Mukherjee’s writing. This has been recommended to me multiple times, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to really enjoy it. I’ve been very into reading science and medicine books, and this seems like a great pick.
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
I’ve actually gotten very into reading biographies over the past few years. And, I realized, every single biography I’ve read, except one, have been about white people. While I really loved learning about da Vinci and Einstein and Catherine the Great, I also really want to learn more about diverse historical figures (though, being gay, da Vinci does count). I am still planning on finishing the giant biography of Ulysses S. Grant I started last year, but I wanted to choose a new biography for this year that is NOT about a white man.
So I decided on this one. I’ve heard amazing things about it, and it also won the Pulitzer Prize for history. But, mostly, I know pretty much nothing about Frederick Douglass, and that’s kind of embarrassing since I literally have a degree in American history. Which I have been realizing was sorely lacking in any sort of real diversity. It’s something I need to fix, and this seems like a great way to do it.
Barracooon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston
This has been on my radar for a while. It’s the story of the last surviving man who was transported from Africa to America as a slave. It seems like it’s going to be a difficult read – despite it being pretty short – and I just haven’t been in the right mental space to tackle it. But I think this is going to be the year. I have recently realized that part of me feeling better about myself is educating myself on the experiences of others. I genuinely think it has made me a better person, and it’s something I want to keep doing. So I think even thought this book might make me sad, it’ll be worth it.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Since the rest of the nonfiction on this list is either memoir or biography, I wanted to add something a little different. This book is about how members of the Osage Indian Nation became wealthy after oil was discovered on their land… and then slowly began to be killed off. And how the FBI handled it. It’s another untold part of our history that I think is valuable to learn about. I’ve also heard absolutely amazing things about this from everyone who’s read it.
I’m really excited about this reading list! It took me a while to put together (which is why this post is up a day late), but I’m happy with it.
Have you read any of these books? Are there any other books you think I should add to my list this year?
P.S. I didn’t include any upcoming releases, but I will have a post about all the 2021 releases I want to read up soon.