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24 January 2016

Reevaluating My Reading: Author Origins

I've been seeing more and more buzz about diversity in the book world lately, and I got curious:

How diverse are my reading habits?

There are lots of ways to measure this. Author or character gender, LGBT orientation, ethnicity or culture, disability or mental illness, and on and on and on. Today, though, I just want to focus on origin

Where are my books coming from?

Edited to add: This has nothing to do with that current Kirkus kerfuffle. This post was scheduled well before that started. And frankly, it confuses the hell out of me.

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Skip this section and go straight to the results below if you're not interested in the method behind the madness madness behind the method....

I decided to focus on author origin / place of publication rather than character origin or book settings, simply because many books take place in multiple countries or even completely made-up worlds.

Some authors were hard to pin down. Many writers prefer to protect their privacy online and there was no information about where they call home. Others were born in one place but lived most of their lives in another -- Laura Ingalls Wilder being an extreme example of this conundrum. When I couldn't find any information about an author's specific location, I simply used the country where their book was originally published instead.

I also had to decide what to do about series or multiple books by the same author. I ultimately decided to count each series only once per year, even if I read several books from the series in one year. Likewise, books with multiple authors are only counted once if both authors are from the same country, but twice if they worked together across borders.

In other words, this evaluation does not reflect the actual number of books I've read. It's all about the authors!

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For all the books I've read in the past five years (from 2011 to 2015), here's the breakdown by country:

Hm. Looks like I only managed read a few books from countries where the main language is not English. Of the non-English-speaking countries, the most heavily represented (with 6 books) was Japan.

Here's the breakdown for the good ol' US of A:

Many states were represented by only 1 or 2 books on my lists, which is why this pie has so many tiny slices. Only Texas, New York, California, Massachusetts, and Utah were represented by 10 or more books. Oh, and "America" as a general category (representing authors of unknown origin that published in the US).

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I knew my reading has been mostly by American and English-speaking European authors. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that many of the Americans claim New York or California as home. Looks like the state with the biggest share of my American pie chart (ha) is Texas, and there's a specific reason for that: in 2014 I had to read a great many books by Texas authors for a book list committee.

What am I going to do with this information? I don't know yet. My planned reading for 2016 pretty much fits in with this pattern. But maybe in the future this will serve as motivation to try for a little extra diversity in my book diet.

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