When Esquire published its list of "80 Books Every Man Should Read," the editors stepped in it. Big time. Out of 80 books, only one was written by a woman, and fewer than 10 were by men of color. Now the Esquire editors have sought to correct their mistake with "80 Books Every Person Should Read."
The magazine's new list of must-read books is actually made up of eight mini-lists. The series of top-10 picks come from eight literary women: Michiko Kakutani, Lauren Groff, Sloane Crosley, Roxane Gay, Lizzie Widdicombe, Anna Holmes, Camille Perry, and Ashley Ford.
It comes as no surprise that Esquire's new list has many more women and writers of color. A few of the participants selected only books by women for their lists. Just three books appeared on both: As I Lay Dying; So Long, See You Tomorrow; and Underworld.
It's true that the compilers had more to choose from on the second-go-round, given that a few years have passed since Esquire published "80 Books Every Man Should Read." However, that does not account for the classic novels that make their first appearances in this new incarnation. To Kill a Mockingbird, Giovanni's Room, The Handmaid's Tale, and Their Eyes Were Watching God were all established, canonical literature before the Esquire editors put together their first collection of must-reads.
For their part, the folks at Esquire do apologize for their mistake:
What can we say? We messed up. Our list ... was rightfully called out for its lack of diversity in both authors and titles.
And although the brevity of their apology rubs me the wrong way, I realize that any attempt to explain why their first list was so reliant on white, male authors would sound like so many excuses. And, when something like this happens, we don't need excuses. We need change, and that's exactly what Esquire gave us.