Mar 01

Diverse books for a diverse reading population. We recommend What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, and Evicted by Matthew Desmond.


I recently discovered The Setup Wizard, a Tumblr-based fan fiction about a Muggle who is the first ever IT person at Hogwarts. It’s hilarious, and you should definitely read it from the very beginning! And, coming on July 30, you’ll be able to read, in book form, the forthcoming play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.


audiobooksAudiobook of the week (05:07)

Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel, Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, narrated by the author, is my pick for this week’s Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand. allows you to listen to over 60,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to


We Need Diverse Books (08:31)

After the lack of diversity in this past weekend’s Academy Awards, this seemed like a good time to examine publishing’s similar problem. In 2014, author Ellen Oh and 21 other children’s book authors and industry professionals began using the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks in response to an all-white, all-male panel of children’s book authors at a major book convention. The social media campaign has gone worldwide and has grown into the We Need Diverse Books movement that’s bringing this issue to the attention of publishers and readers.

Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States, recently released the results of a survey they conducted, which shows that the lack of diversity in books and authors published might be exacerbated by the lack of diversity among publishing employees and book reviewers.

Thankfully, the discussion of these issues is leading to some small changes, such as more diverse participants on author panels, and even the creation of Salaam Reads, a new Simon & Schuster imprint that will publish children’s books featuring Muslim characters and stories.

Ann mentioned an article about the difficulty of getting an agent in Hollywood if you’re a person of color, and wondered if that’s an issue with literary agents as well.

Then, there’s the story of Marley Dias, an 11-year-old girl from New Jersey who was sick of reading books about “white boys and dogs.” Where were the books starring black girls like her? She set out to collect 1,000 books with black girls as the main characters. She quickly blew past that goal, thanks to the help of Twitter, and others. Her quest is serving to educate people, including teachers and librarians. Way to go Marley!


Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (29:16)

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Ann recommends What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, which is getting much critical praise lately. The unnamed main character, an American teacher, meets Mitko in a Bulgarain public bathroom and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again in this gorgeous, uncomfortable novel that Ann said felt like a literary masterpiece from the first page.

In the vein of Just Mercy, Ghettoside, and Between the World and Me, I recommend Evicted by Matthew Desmond. A difficult, but vital look at the eviction process and how, once caught in it, it can be so hard to escape. This is one the most important books you’ll read this year.

  • Anonymous

    Ann, I was thrilled to see that you recommended What Belongs to You. I learned of Greenwell in the same way you did, and was lucky enough to see him give a reading and brief q-and-a at my alma mater earlier this year. If he is promoting in your area, you should see him; I really enjoyed it.

    Michael, that book sounds fantastic. I read Ghettoside last year after hearing about it through the podcast. I listened to the podcast while I was at work earlier today, and I remembered on my way home that there was an article about eviction on The Atlantic that I hadn’t read. I looked it up, and it turns out that it’s an interview with the author. It might be mostly review if you’ve read the book, but I found it interesting nonetheless:

  • Elizabeth

    I think the topic of diversity in reading is timely. I strive to read books that teach me about new cultures or a snapshot of life that is different from my own. As a teacher, I try to recommend books that are of interest to my students. Not all of my students are looking for themselves in books; many read for escape and diversion which means immersing themselves in worlds that are different from their own. It seems that teachers do make more of an effort to confront this issue of diversity and get a dialogue going.

  • Missy Horvath

    Would you like to see a publishing company with WNDB for children at the heart of their mission? Please check out this private children’s book publishing company that has been spreading diversity over the past 20 years.

    Disclaimer: I am a bookseller for Barefoot Books, however, I use this platform to donate books and get them into schools, libraries, children’s homes and therapy centers. It offers an alternative to ‘screen time’ and gives kids the option to read books that give them comfort or to explore new ideas, cultures and mindfulness.

    • For anyone reading: normally we delete comments like this. However, in this specific case, I know that Barefoot Books is a wonderful and legitimate publisher, and this “ad” can actually be a viable resource for librarians, teachers or parents looking for diverse books, which, as we discussed on the podcast, can be hard to find. So I’m going to leave it. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all for people to post ads and promotional comments. Thanks for your cooperation.

  • Kimberly Uhuru

    Thank you for addressing the issue of diversity, especially in children’s books. As someone who likes to read all kinds of books about all kinds of people, I find this topic to be important. I appreciate your thoughtful discussion on this issue.

  • Tammy Ghenie Ryan

    Ann, A few recently published genre fiction books with diverse authors that I recommend:
    The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – Fantasy
    Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett – Historical Fiction
    Rumor Has It by Cheris Hodges – Romance

    Also, Land of Careful Shadows by Suzanne Chazin is a Mystery that deals with the lives of undocumented workers.

    All of these were all short-listed for the 2016 Reading List which is the best of genre fiction as selected by The Reading List Council, through the American Library Association.

    In addition, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen was selected for the 2016 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

    • Thank you, thank you! i will put these on my reading list. Much appreciated!

    • Suzanne Chazin

      Tammy–I just happened to notice that you mentioned my first book in my series dealing with the undocumented: Land of Careful Shadows. Thank you! There is also a second in the series: A Blossom of Bright Light and a third will be coming out this fall: No Witness But the Moon. Just FYI–and thanks for mentioning!–Suzanne

  • Monica Postma

    I’m dubious of how useful all those statistics are, unless you mean to suggest that I, as a straight white female, should give up my dream of working in the publishing industry so a trans black woman might take my place. This is bad news for me, as I’m already a junior in college who’s been working towards a job in the publishing industry through my degree for years.

    What do you suggest these statistics be used for?

    • The statistics show why many readers feel under-served by the number of books reflecting diverse ethnicities, stories, backgrounds and experiences.

      Do I think you should give up your dream of working in publishing? Of course not. It’s not an either-or scenario. But the traditional path to “big 5” publishing has left many people out in the cold. There is now a recognition of that, and hopefully efforts to address it. It doesn’t mean that the industry will stop recruiting out of publishing programs; it does mean that they may now also start recruiting at other places and trying to make the workplace look more like the marketplace.

      Not everyone can afford to take an unpaid internship in NYC to get a foot in the door. In fact, very few can. But that has been one of the paths. The addition of paid internships is a step, but unless you have a place to live in NYC or family who can subsidize the experience, it’s going to be very difficult to take that route. All of these statistics are a means to prove out what many have felt for a very long time.

  • Kim

    I think publishers are doing a disservice to us when they assume that as white people, we’re not going to be interested in black stories or books written by black authors. Ridiculous! I loved Kindred by Octavia Butler and passed it on to my mom who also loved it. And one of my favorite books right now is The Turner House by Angela Flournoy which I recommend to everyone. It’s a wonderful story. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was another standout. Adichie points out in a Ted talk that if we only hear one story about people, then we don’t get the whole picture. We need to hear many stories about people to understand them. How are we the same? How are we different?

    Thanks for discussing this issue! I think it was entirely appropriate for your podcast.

  • Thank you for sharing the WNDB campaign! As a book reviewer and blogger I curate books for children of diverse backgrounds because of course children want to read books about people who look like them! As much as I enjoy the show, it seems peculiar that you should only touch on this topic once or even periodically. I’ve only been listening for approximately 4 months so maybe I’ve missed older episodes. Thank you, though, for sharing this important topic with your listeners. I encourage readers to read a diverse book. There are some good ones around and you’re missing out!

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