10 Questions Every Responsible Reader Should Ask About Any Book They Pick Up In A Library Or Bookstore
Sometimes being a reader can feel like being a superhero — all you have to do is crack open a book and you have access to a whole new world. Knowledge certainly is powerful, yet as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility." In today's world, being a responsible reader means understanding that every book you read is part of a larger political and social movement.
You've certainly heard the term "fake news" being tossed around in the past few years. And while it's true that our current political climate has demonstrated the importance of evaluating your sources, being critical and thoughtful has always been a vital part of being a reader. It's urgent that every reader have a mental toolkit for evaluating what they're reading.
But another part of being a responsible reader is making sure that you're opening yourself up to different perspectives and ideas. It's vital to listen to marginalized voices and voices that differ from your own. Books are amazing in that they allow us to step outside of our own experiences and our own privilege. If you're not taking advantage of that, then you're missing out on an important part of being a citizen in the world.
Asking questions is the first step. So, here are 10 questions to ask yourself about every read you pick up.
Who wrote this?
You can't ignore the person behind the pen. But this means more than just a name. What's this person's profession? Their gender? Their nationality? Their race? Knowing who an author is is the first step to understanding how their perspective fits into the larger picture.
What makes this author qualified to write this book?
Did they do the research? Do they have first-hand experience? For any book, you'll want to ask yourself why this author is the person to listen to about this subject matter.
What makes this author biased?
Make sure you understand the factors that are affecting this author's point-of-view. Do they have a personal connection to the subject matter? A relevant political or religious affiliation? What's their motivation?
What are the author's sources?
Especially when it comes to nonfiction, you want to have an idea of the research that went into the book. Did the author draw from a variety of sources? Were those sources credible?
What other books/resources are out there on this subject?
Be aware of what other resources are out there, and how this book fits into the larger conversation. Especially if you're reading something controversial, it's always a good idea to look at a few different angles.
How does this book fit into my personal literary canon? Am I reading diversely?
As a reader, it's absolutely essential to make sure that you are reading diverse books. This means considering how every book you read diversifies (or fails to diversify) your reading. If you realize that, for instance, you're only reading white authors, or only reading male authors, or only reading straight authors, you should try to include more marginalized authors in your reading lineup.
How does this perspective relate to my own experience?
Considering this question is a major part of reading diversely. Remember, books should be both "windows and mirrors" — you should read books that speak to your own experience as well as books that introduce you to other points of view. With every book you read, consider how your experience and degree of privilege might be affecting your understanding.
Is this an #OwnVoices book?
The hashtag #OwnVoices was created by author Corinne Duyvis to highlight books by an author who shares the same marginalized identity as their protagonist. So, for instance, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang is an #OwnVoices book because Hoang, like her protagonist, is on the autism spectrum.
What are people saying about this book?
Sometimes you might not realize how a book is problematic or important until you hear someone else's thoughts about it. It's always helpful to listen up for another point-of-view.