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As has become the tradition since she first began the ongoing recommendation list project in 2013, Renay is once again opening this month’s series of guest posts! Renay writes for the wonderful blog Lady Business, the 2017 Hugo Award winner for Best Fanzine and one of my personal favorite sites for science fiction and fantasy-related recommendations. She also co-hosts the Fangirl Happy Hour podcast—one of this year’s Hugo Award finalists for Best Fancast!

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My journey with diversifying my reading started small—read more women—and it worked perfectly. I had several tactics to offset the noise from Culture, like adding two books by women to my TBR when I added a book by a man, checking out a book by a woman from the library if I checked out a book by a man, and a similar tactic with bookstores (although that became dangerous fast because romance ebooks are Tempting).

Times have changed, though, and my understanding of people and their complicated, fascinating, messy experiences became deeper. I found myself in the comfortable position where I read lots of women, but they were white women, cis women, and straight women. And worse, I would reread the same comfortable authors in these categories, diving into back lists and rereading books I loved. There’s no wrong way to read; I’m always adamant about that. But for me (and maybe for other people) reading is a kind of continuing education, helping me imagine the world more complexly. When my reading stagnated, spinning its wheels in the diversity grooves I had worn trying to make my reading more equitable between cis men and cis women, I knew I needed to change something.

The last two years, I’ve been challenging myself to read differently in a way that has been incredibly successful and rewarding. I do a challenge each year to read new to me women writers, with a focus on women of color and trans women (my goal is 30 but I recommend smaller goals to start). Now more than ever I believe it’s important to make it a priority to listen to voices so drastically different than mine, hear the stories they want to tell, and meet the characters they imagine. Reading, more than anything else I do, is the way I open the world and its vastness up to myself. Nonfiction is relevant to this, too, but fiction even more so, because of how powerful stories can be in humanizing other people and communities.

For so many of us, our understanding of who women are has shifted and changed over the last decade in ways we could have never have predicted. The way we think about gender itself has expanded. That means the way we engage in list-making, reccing, and reading will shift too, if we approach the change with curiosity and make space for different perspectives.

Here, on Fantasy Book Cafe, Kristen has worked so hard to create a space like that over the years, following the seed of idea I had that she has made into a massive recommendation list of women writers—over 2500 recs! The Giant List of Books by Women in Science Fiction & Fantasy started small, but because it’s our list—the people who read SFF and love rec lists and follow projects like this—we can make it a priority to choose recommendations that reflect our changing world. So this year, as you go to submit books you’ve loved over the last 12 months, consider the marginalized women writers writing speculative fiction that you’ve read and loved and share them with us. Let’s keep working on inclusivity, reading new-to-us voices, and then celebrating those voices when we find work we love.