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The Importance of Diversifying Your Bookshelf

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

Readers are often regarded as being incredibly smart and put together, but that’s only if they’re reading one genre of books—classics. Classics that were written by old, dead white men with typically racist undertones. But somehow, these books are often associated with being the only kind of books with substance. This idea is constantly being reiterated in high school English classes where we find ourselves reading novels with a severe lack of diversity. 

So why is it important to diversify our bookshelves and what exactly does that even mean? Diversifying our bookshelves refers to reading more books written by BIPOC or 2SLGBTQ+ authors along with books that feature a more diverse cast of characters. 

Although diversity in the media has grown substantially over the past few years, it’s still something that needs to be recognized and encouraged. Through reading novels with a variety of characters who have had different experiences based on race, sexuality, etc, we can begin to understand the struggles people go through on a daily basis. It is important to mention, however, that just reading books with diverse representation does not make you an expert on the experiences of others.

YA novels are sometimes regarded as being lesser than classics, but new YA novels are just as important to read as they touch on several subjects that are more relevant to the 21st century.  A little while ago I read the novel Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany. D Jackson. It tells the story of a black girl who goes missing and no one seems to care except her best friend. I soon learned that this novel is actually based on a true story and it references the fact that several black girls go missing in the United States every year, but they are never given the same attention as other children in the same situation. This novel actually had a major impact and caused the hashtag #missinggirlsDC to go viral, bringing attention to this major issue. 

Clearly, new YA books can teach the general public a lot about the major injustices minorities face in society, thus adding to the importance of diversifying your bookshelf. Just like movies and tv shows, books tell a story with aspects of truth, and in reading stories with diverse characters, we’re able to see the struggles and hardships faced by people simply because of who they are. 

Now, to help you start your journey in diversifying your bookshelf, here are some recommendations to books with diversity that you should definitely check out:

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  • These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

If none of these pique your interest, there are several more novels that can easily be found on the internet. One such site to check out would be Goodreads.

Even to this day, minority groups struggle to be well-represented in the media. Oftentimes authors will place minority characters in their novels exclusively to assist the main character. This usually involves harmful representation and overall gives these characters no development. However, novels with minority characters at the forefront allow for minority groups to connect with the main character and give people who can’t relate to the mainstream books, a new outlook on life as they read this character’s thoughts and feelings on different situations. 

So, are classics really the only books with any value? Absolutely not. As society develops, we are now realizing both the lack of and harmful representation of BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ characters in these older books. Newer books aren’t any less educational, in fact, they have a more modern outlook on life, and have the ability to share real-world issues through stories. Whenever you’re browsing through a bookstore or your local library, try to find books with greater diversity, and help diversify your bookshelf. 

Victoria is a third-year Bachelor of Arts student at Queen's University studying English. She is also a lover of music, romcoms, Formula 1, and is always open to book recs!