My views on reading are simple: I think everybody should and must read and I think everybody must read as many perspectives as possible. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction or creative non-fiction or literary essays or personal memoirs: the more perspectives we read, the more we understand (even when it is entirely imaginary!). The more empathy we have. The wider our world becomes. I believe that reading authors of different backgrounds, as many as possible, facilitates this.
If sameness breeds sameness, inclusivity breeds creativity.
The publishing industry is still overwhelmingly white. What does this mean for all those authors of different backgrounds, with different stories to tell? It means it’s still overwhelmingly hard to be published because their stories are still defined as stories of difference. Our stories are not recognisable unless they live up to a mainstream perception of who we are, of who they want us to be.
(I write all this with the privilege of having been published once but also with the struggle of trying to be published again.)
Some months ago, I hosted a book giveaway on my Instagram. I gave away three books that showed the sort of different perspectives and rich stories that I’m talking about. I did this because it matters to me that people read these voices. I’m still not convinced that enough people do enough to seek out those stories by authors of different backgrounds to them. If it means I have to send books out to people in order for them to be read, then I will. I’d do it with my book too only I’d rather you bought it and then leave a review.
The giveaway led to a discussion, with so many people joining in and sharing their favourite books either on inclusivity as a subject, or simply fiction by an author of a different background. I decided to compile all the recommendations together into a reading list to share.
If you want to broaden your bookshelf or simply want a wonderful new book to read that perhaps you might not have come across before, then here are some brilliant recommendations. This is by no means a finite list, but it’s a very good place to start.
An Inclusive Reading List
On inclusivity/ race
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging by Afua Hirsch
Triple Heritage by Rasna Warah (out of print, may be in libraries)
Feminist Theory from Margin to Centre by bell hooks
Essays / Collections / Short Stories
In Spite of Oceans by Huma Qureshi (me)
It’s Not About The Burqa edited by Mariam Khan
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
The Things I Would Tell You edited by Sabrina Mahfouz
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
The Good Immigrant USA edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
Poetry / Essays
Sister’s Entrance by Emtithal Mahmoud
Wild Embers by Nikita Gill (and her other poetry)
The Sun And Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (and her other poetry)
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (and her other titles)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (and her other titles)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (and her other titles)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Free Food For Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Small Island by Andrea Levy
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Life and Times of a Very British Man by Kamal Ahmed
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Chase The Rainbow by Poorna Bell
Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below - I look forward to reading many more.
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