Looking To Diversify Your Reading History? Read These 20 Books To Get Started.

If you’re a book lover, you have probably heard many discussions about the importance of reading books written by people from marginalized backgrounds. 

Their value and importance isn’t in question. That’s been established long ago. 

Now that we all agree that developing and practicing diverse reading habits is important, what we need is more people actually reading diverse books. Not just in 2016, but every year. 

I created this list of 10 Young Adult and 10 Adult Fiction books for those who are genuinely interested in seeking out diverse voices in literature, but don’t know where to start. 

If you are reading this out of legitimate interest, then I hope my recommendations serve you well and that I help you find your new favorite book.

(Disclosure: I have not read all the books in the lists below, but the ones that I haven’t read come highly recommended by others bloggers and people I trust. And of course, I have done my research to provide you all with quality literature.)

All book titles are linked to either Goodreads or a review on my blog.


Young Adult

 

Shadoeshaper by daniel jose olderShadowshaper – by Daniel Jose Older

  • Afro-Latina protagonist
  • Fun characters and dialogue
  • Cool magic system that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings

 

 

Akata Witch by Nnedi OkoraforAkata Witch – by Nnedi Okorafor

  • 12-year-old female protagonist, Sunny, who lives in Nigeria
  • Her features are African, but she’s albino
  • Sunny discovers she’s a witch and joins a community of magic users

 

 

The absolutely true diary of a part-time indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – by Sherman Alexie

  • Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation
  • He leaves the reservation on school days to attend a white school
  • Presents honest depictions of life reservations
  • This book is a delightful, funny, crass, but also heart-wrenching

 

 

More Happy than not by adam silveraMore Happy Than Not – by Adam Silvera

  • A debut novel that The New York Times called “mandatory reading”
  • Moving story about a young Latino, Aaron Soto
  • Explores LGBT issues, identity, and self-acceptance 

 

 

Marcelo in the real worldMarcelo in the Real World – by Francisco X. Stork

  • A story about a Latino teen in the autism spectrum 
  • Contemporary Young Adult fiction

 

 

 

The girl from everywhereThe Girl From Everywhere – by Heidi Heilig

  • Follows Nix, a biracial teen
  • Science Fiction – time-travel and pirate ships!
  • A fantastical adventure with a diverse cast of characters

 

 

Sister of My Heart – by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

  • Set in India, follows two cousins who are best friends
  • Their bond is broken after a dark family secret is revealed
  • Their paths diverge after an arranged marriage takes one to America

 

 

Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your assYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass – by Meg Medina

  • A Latina teen is targeted by school bully Yaqui Delgado
  • Explores bullying in a nuanced way
  • A culturally rich and socially relevant novel

 

 

ZeroboxerZeroboxer – by Fonda Lee

  • “A Sci-Fi Thrill Ride Set in the Action-Packed Sports Arena of the Future” 
  • Recommended for fans of dystopian fiction

 

 

 

sammy and juliana in HollywoodSammy and Juliana in Hollywood – by Benjamin Alire Saenz

  • A story set in the late 1960s seen through the yes of a Mexican-American teen
  • Set in Hollywood, New Mexico – not California

 

 

 


Adult Fiction

 

The pearl that broke its shellThe Pearl That Broke Its Shell – by Nadia Hashimi 

  • Set in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2007
  • Young Rahima has no brothers and a drug-addicted father
  • She practices the custom of bacha posh, which means she is treated as a boy and is allowed her to chaperone her sisters
  • a “tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one’s own fate”

 

Juliet Takes a BreathJuliet Takes a Breath – by Gabby Rivera

  • Juliet Milagros Palante just came out to her family 
    • She’s not sure if her family will ever speak to her again
  • She leaves the Bronx for Portland to escape and find herself
  • Tries to figure out the whole “Puerto Rican Lesbian” thing

 

 

Barefoot Dogs by antonio ruiz camachoBarefoot Dogs – by Antonio Ruiz Camacho

  • A collection of interconnect short stories about a wealthy Mexican family
  • The family patriarch is kidnapped 
  • The rest of the family expatriates and scatters across America and Europe
  • It is relevant, powerful fiction about a family torn apart by violence

 

 

The sympathizer by viet thank nguyenThe Sympathizer – by Viet Thank Nguyen 

  • The 2016 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  • The narrator is a half-Vietnamese, half-French army captain
  • “a blistering exploration of identity, politics, and America, wrought in electric prose”
  • “A gripping espionage novel”

 

Ink by sabrina vourvouilasInk – by Sabrina Vourvouilas 

  • “What happens when rhetoric about immigrants escalates to an institutionalized population control system?”
  • Ink is a dark science-fiction novel set in the near future
  • Imagine a world in which people with recent Latin American immigrant history are marked with biometric tatoos and are known as “inks” 

 

The Book of Negroes by lawrence hillThe Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

  • Multi-generational historical drama
  • Follows Aminata Diallo, a girl sold into slavery
  • Aminata’s life is chronicled from girlhood to her role as an abolitionist
  • Tells the story of the Black Loyalists

 

 

The Book of Unkown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans – by Cristina Henríquez

  • 15-year-old Maribel Rivera suffers a traumatic brain injury 
  • Her family leaves Mexico and moves to America to find a special-needs school
  • The story is narrated in different point-of-view chapters using the voices of immigrants from all over Latin America.
  • Poignant, honest, and rooted in authenticity 

 

A thousand splendid sunsA Thousand Splendid Suns – by Khaled Hosseini 

  • From the author of The Kite Runner
  • Miriam and Laila are two women born a generation apart; they are mother and daughter
  • Set in Kabul, Afghanistan
  • Explores the plight of women under the rule of the Taliban

 

three day road by joseph boydenThree Day Road by Joseph Boyden

  • Set in Canada in 1919
  • Niska, an Oji-Cree woman, embarks on a three-day canoe journey to bring her last living relation home to safety 

 

 

brown girl, brownstonesBrown Girl, Brownstones – by Paule Marshall

  • “Set in Brooklyn during the Depression and World War II, it chronicles the efforts of Barbadian immigrants to surmount poverty and racism and to make their new country home.”

 

 

 

I hope you found at least one of these books to your liking and consider reading it.

Please share on social media so that people seeking out diverse voices in literature can find stories that resonate with them. 


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45 thoughts on “Looking To Diversify Your Reading History? Read These 20 Books To Get Started.

  1. Oh these lists are fantastic! Literally all these books are on my list, some of which I’ve read. Sherman Alexie was at a Diversity IN YA Panel last week at Book Con and discussed some very serious truths about what it is to be a non-white writer, what are the expectations from readers and publishers, and reminded us that we have made some progress, even if we don’t feel that way. He said something about being an book trade shows in the 90’s and being the only brown man in the building. It was very powerful. I’m also so glad you’ve taken up creating a space for #DiverseBookBloggers, and the response is heartening so far. Definitely has made me determined to be mindful of what books I choose to review (I read a lot and it’s not possible/unnecessary for me to review them all). Looking forward to see how all this pans out!

    1. Ohhh, would that I had been there! That panel sounds like it was so important and honest. Sigh.
      Thanks for joining #DiverseBookBloggers and amplifying our message. I really appreciate it. 🙂

      Yes, you do read a lot of books! haha I, unfortunately, don’t have the problem of having too many books to review :/ I’m a tad jealous.

      1. Hahaha I just finished my 100th book/audiobook/comic single/trade last night. Pretty proud of myself. It’s taken me years to get back to this place in my life.

  2. Oooh I loved “Absolutely True Diary…” I’ve also been wanting to read Akata Witch and The Girl from Everywhere! Now I have many more for my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendations! Great post!

  3. This list is awesome, Naz! I definitely found a couple books I hadn’t even heard of, so looking forward to discovering new authors and stories! Gabby Rivera is so on my.tbr, I keep wanting.to read it together with Dirty River…must be the cover art 😀
    So happy you started the tag and the great convos it generated! Would you.mind if I link to your list from.the directory? I put in.a.ressources page.

    1. It’s good to know that I some of the books are new even for you! Haha. This list is aimed at people who don’t generally read like us. Hope they find it useful too.

      Yes, please feel free to link to any articles, pages, or reviews I have written.

      1. Awesome thanks, will do!
        Oh definitely, I find so many new works through you and your blog! It’s a great list for people who’ve read less diversely but I love how everyone blogs about different books and I never run out of diverse books to read! Just goes to show how many there are if you look for them and promote them 🙂

  4. Wonderful list as always Naz! Just saw Ink on Bina’s page this morning, too (I just bought it! So excited). Also somewhere on my shelves (which are 50% unread at least), are the Khaled Hosseini, Lawrence Hill and Nadia Hashimi books – thanks for the motivation to dig them out! 🙂

    1. I look forward to all your reviews and discussion posts now that summer is approaching. I hope you enjoy Ink!

      Good to hear you already have Hosseini’s book. A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of my favorite novels of all time.

  5. What a great list — thanks for the recommendations! I just added some of these on Goodreads. A Thousand Splendid Suns is actually on my list to read this year, too.

    1. I debated not adding A Thousand Splendid Suns because it’s such a popular book and many people have already heard of it. But I LOVED it so much that I want to recommend it for the people who haven’t read it yet. Please do. It’s a perfect novel, in my opinion.

  6. Awesome post! Thanks for doing this! I love The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, so I’m sure I’ll love the rest. I might start with More Happy Than Not or Akata Witch 🙂

  7. Wonderful post. Akata Witch is FANTASTIC. Love it, love it, LOVE it. And the author, Nnedi Okorafor, just won a Nebula Award for her novella Binti, which is an space-traveling sci-fi piece of awesomeness. Absolutely True Diary is also pretty freaking good. On this list, I’d have to say that The Girl From Everywhere is the one that caught my eye. Thanks for the recommendations!

  8. I love your lists like this – I always ending up adding even more books to my radar. I really like the sound of The Book of Negroes – and oh my goodness, the ratings on Goodreads?! They’re insanely out of the roof. I think that’s one I’ll definitely pick up at some point.

  9. I am so impressed with you and your blog. I share your enthusiasm for reading diversity and love to see your enjoyment of books i have loved and your suggestions for ones new to me. I have some lists of favorites you might check out. My focus is primarily of writings by women of color, but I also read many good books by men. Sorry I have about given up on commenting, but know I am out here appreciating what you are doing.

    You were complaining about not being able to get the diverse books you want at big mainstream bookstores. I regularly get many of them from online used book sources, especially BETTERWORLDBOOKS and PAPERBACKSWAP.

    Keep up the good work and ENJOY. Marilyn

    1. I prefer to read women of color! Over 50 percent of my reviews are by women writers.

      Aw, can you not find much time to comment on other blogs? I understand completely. Thank you for stopping by, though. I truly appreciate it.

      I haven’t shopped at Barnes and Noble in a few weeks due to experiencing the same problem. I hate to buy books online, but sometimes I have to. I will venture out into more independent and used bookstores. I’m excited!

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