A PSA to People Who Keep on Recommending Books by Their White Faves

Hello! I feel like I haven’t written a post in ages and I probably feel that way because it’s true?? I’ve definitely been slacking blogging wise partly because of school starting and partly because I’ve been feeling a little burnt out recently. Speaking of school, I am currently in the middle of a class, but one pro of online learning is that I can be on a different screen and nobody will know the difference!

I’ve been thinking recently about reading tastes and preferences and how (obviously) people’s tastes change over time. I think that I was thinking about it specifically in the case of diversity in reading, especially with how some people have started talking about how “underrated” some of their favorite (white and very not underrated) books are.

Personally, my reading preferences and habits have changed a lot over the past few years, and I figure that the same thing has happened with a lot of other readers. I kind of missed out on a lot of the big hyped books of the mid-2010’s, so books like ACOTAR, TOG, and The Shadow and Bone trilogy I only read within the past year. Happens to be that I didn’t really enjoy some of these books, but it makes me think, what if I read them 4 years ago? I would probably have given them a higher rating then. I sometimes see people complaining about mainstream, very hyped, non-diverse books getting high ratings, which is warranted, especially when more diverse books get lower ratings just because they’re diverse.

But then I was thinking, can I really judge people who adore these (what some may call) “basic” books when I never really had the experience of reading and becoming obsessed with them? Well, since it’s a free country, I can judge people based on whatever I want. But! I’ve decided to make a little list of things not to do if you’re a reader who is adamant on only talking about a book that came out in 2012.

The book is not underrated or underhyped

Please stop saying that so and so book is underrated. It has over 100,000 ratings on Goodreads. It has an orange banner on Amazon. It’s a New York Times bestseller. People have heard about this book and I guarantee that hundreds of thousands of people have read it. The only reason I can give you for why people don’t really talk about it so much is either because it came out four or more years ago, or it just wasn’t very good. It’s fine that you want to talk to people about a book you like, but for a book to be “underrated” it quite literally, needs to have a small number of reviews.

No, the book is not considered diverse because the white author included a POC character

When people are asking for diverse book recommendations, they are not asking for a book with a badly written POC character that was written by a white person. Additionally, please think twice before recommending a book that draws on a non-white culture that was (again) written by a white person when someone asks for diverse books. Yes, I do think that non-white characters should be included in books by white authors, but,

  1. Do not say the author writes diverse characters because of this one side character.
  2. Do not recommend a book by an author writing about a culture that isn’t their own because 10/10 times they will write it badly and end up appropriating and disrespecting said culture.

Stop saying books by AOC copied your favorite hyped books

Just because a book has a school in it does not mean that it’s copying Harry Potter. Just because a book has more than 3 main characters, doesn’t mean that it’s like Six of Crows. Now, I know that books can be similar sometimes. Will some books end up being similar because we live in a society where there’s no such thing as an original idea? Yes. Do I think that Nevernight is just a more gory version of Throne of Glass? Yes. Do I think that Jay Kristoff read Throne of Glass and was like OMG! I need to write something just like this? No.

When a reviewer tries to say that so and so book was just like a mainstream book when there are literally no similarities

Books will always end up being similar, and I think it’s fine to draw positive similarities especially when you’re trying to recommend a book to someone. What I don’t think is fine is claiming that diverse books are unoriginal and are just copying mainstream books. Some of the comparisons I’ve seen have been so out of nowhere and the books compared actually have nothing in common! Here are some tips of what not to write in your review of a diverse book,

“It’s just a more boring…”

“It’s just a badly written version of…”

“The author clearly copied all this from…”

Don’t say you can’t relate to diverse books like you were out there relating to a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf

Another thing I can’t stand to see in reviews is “I just couldn’t relate”, because at the end of the day, not all books were written for you to be able to relate to. Like yeah, you weren’t supposed to be able to relate to a book about a character with a culture and lifestyle that’s different than yours. The book was not written for you to be able to relate to. Not to mention the fact that I highly doubt you were “relating” to all the paranormal and fantasy books that you were reading previously.

Me whenever a reviewer gives a low rating because they “couldn’t relate”

A positive thing about reading diverse books is that you get exposed to cultures and experiences that aren’t your own. You aren’t meant to relate to these experiences, if anything you’re meant to learn that not everyone has the same experiences that you do. And maybe you can think about how little other people have related to books you’ve loved in the past.

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I feel like there are definitely more things that can be said in relation to these specific readers, but at the end of the day I think that it can all be summarized by one word. Think. Please think before you make a tweet or post, and I guarantee there will be a lot less drama within your future.

Also to reiterate, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking these mainstream books! I just don’t think they should constantly be recommended and spoken about in situations where they don’t really apply. As in, when someone asks for a diverse book or underrated book rec.

Anywho, I should probably pay attention to at least some part of class (there’s an hour and a half left, pray for me) so I’m going to end this discussion very abruptly!

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Oh! Also! Just a little note that we will probably rant about more later on, but, Paper Procrastinators was one of the winners for Best Discussions in the #2020bookbloggerawards!! We are literally so shocked and thankful and we wanted to say thank you so so much to all of you guys who are constantly supporting us and commenting and sharing our posts, it means the world to us!!

What tips do you have for people who only recommend books by their white faves? What’s your favorite underrated book? If you’re taking any classes right now, which one is your least favorite?

38 thoughts on “A PSA to People Who Keep on Recommending Books by Their White Faves

  1. Thank you for this important discussion! It reminds me why I so prefer The Storygraph to Goodreads; I find more truly diverse and underrated books on the former.

    Also, the gifs were great! I love Kim’s Convenience, hehe. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes!! Ooh, I have to finish switching over to Storygraph! I’m still mostly on Goodreads but Storygraph and BookSloth both seem like amazing alternatives to all the craziness that goes on on Goodreads.

      Hahha, thank you! Yess, Kim’s Convenience is so funny!

      Like

  2. I thankfully see less of the “can’t relate” in my usual corner of the internet, but soooo much of the “underrated author with thousands upon thousands of ratings”. It’s so frustrating, I get the people saying these things are usually new to the genre and but no, the top 10 currently best selling authors atm are not underread

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to talk about your favorite books and authors but I see so many people categorize books as “underrated” when they’re just not at all underrated 😂 Ooh, lucky. I see so many terrible reviews with the “can’t relate” line and it’s the worstttt.

      Like

  3. Yes, yes, yes to every single point in this post! It’s so frustrating when I see people forgoing books written by POC authors in favor of books by white authors with exactly one (1) POC character 😫 I love this post, Chana! It’s no wonder your blog won Best Discussions in the Book Blogger Awards! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, thank you Abby!! You’re so sweet 🥺🥰

      Right!! I just find it weird when people are like oh read this book for the POC character when the character is a side character written by a white author 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When I saw the “underrated” book thing, I laughed. I remember a TTT that was for underrated books, and I was seeing Times best sellers on there, and there I am with my book that has 230 ratings. I am also picky about adding a book to my “diverse” shelf. I only include it, if the diversity is offered via the MC, not “she had a gay friend” sort of thing. Good points!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I was writing this post I was debating adding actual underrated books under the underrated section and I literally have books with 300 total ratings on Goodreads 😂 Like people are talking about books with 300k ratings and saying they’re underrated.

      Yeah! I do love kind of casual diversity where friends etc are diverse as well, but I’m not going to shelve a book as LGBTQ+ if a friend or side character is LGBTQ+. I feel like when people do that they just don’t like reading diverse books but want it to *seem* like they do.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this! I saw someone try to say Cinder was underrated recently and was shocked.

    The whole thing about ppl seeming to think books need to be relatable to them specifically in order to be good is so obnoxious and all the points you brought up about that issue are excellent and true.

    Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omggg, Cinder?? Maybe they thought that because it was really really popular years back and not as many people talk about it currently? I’m not sure what could lead someone to thinking that Cinder was underrated 😬

      Thank you for reading! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Haha I ALMOST called a popular book by a white author underrated one time, but then I went ‘wait a moment I better look this up’ and…yeah it was a bestseller lmao. Glad I double-checked.

    I have read diverse books by authors outside of that group that were pretty good imo, but I still wouldn’t rec those to someone looking for a diverse book, you know? Not unless it was REALLY accurate to say, my experience with mental illness or whatnot. POC authors have a harder time getting their books read.

    Luckily I’ve stayed away from the people who demand characters from a different culture to be ‘relatable’ 😷 I suddenly feel very good about my corner of the internet.

    Good luck with class!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahhaa, I always love checking up how many ratings a book has on Goodreads! Sometimes it’s waaaay more than I expect and sometimes it’s a lot less, so it’s always interesting to double-check!

      Yeah, I mostly have a problem when people recommend a book and label it diverse when it’s only a side character and that character wasn’t even written by someone within that minority. It kind of feels like grasping at straws. Like the book can definitely be recommended for other reasons! But just not for its diversity.

      Thank you!! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for posting this! This is such an important conversation to have. When readers say that they didn’t like a POC book because they couldn’t relate to it is racism.You’re right. It’s not written to be relatable. It’s written for a reader of that same group to feel seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! I feel like people who write those sorts of reviews are just very entitled and self-centered. They’re probably not used to not being centered in a piece of media, and I hope that by reading more diverse books they’ll realize their mistake.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I feel like Six of Crows is the poster child for “diverse” recommendations and honestly, the books are entertaining enough but they do the bare minimum in terms of diversity. The world building is some of the laziest I’ve ever read – they’re just real life countries with different names!

    I have been guilty of calling older series that used to be popular “underrated”, but usually just to fill answers in book tags because I’ve not really read any genuinely underrated books (oops, I should get on that).

    “Don’t say you can’t relate to diverse books like you were out there relating to a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf” that line actually killed me, oh my god 😂 “Can’t relate” is such a weak excuse for not enjoying a book. Like, if you only want to read books about people exactly like you, go ahead, I can assure you there’s plenty 🙄

    Great discussion, as usual! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also thought that was a great point when people say they “can’t relate”! I don’t expect to relate to every character so it blows my mind when that’s people’s baseline. Maybe it has something to do with social media and YT trying to appear “relatable” despite being super filthy rich….?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. It shocks me to see how many people recommend SoC as a diverse book! I really enjoyed the series and like, I’d recommend it for other reasons, but centering its diversity when the diversity is 1. minimal 2. written by a non-ownvoices author is very weird.

      Hahahaha, I relate to trying to find an underrated answer for book tags 😂 I usually just have a problem with the underrated thing when people make a post or tweet centering a book talking about how nobody talks about it when it’s actually super popular.

      !! Yessss! Like if you wanted to read a book you “related” to then just go do that instead of leaving dumb negative reviews on a book 😤

      Thank you! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “Don’t say you can’t relate to diverse books like you were out there relating to a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf”

    THE WAY I SCREAMED. I loved this discussion post so much Chana!! I think it’s really unfair to compare POC books to white authors (not to say some white author books aren’t good but it sets unfair expectations). Amazing post!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, thank you!! Yesss, I just can’t stand it when people are constantly comparing books by AOC to books by white authors like white authors invented writing or something?? It’s like people can’t comprehend creative and original ideas if it didn’t come from a white author 🙄

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is such a great post! Literally everything you said was SPOT ON. I loved all the points you made, and SO agree – I swear I scream these exact same sentiments at my screen regularly, and it can be so frustrating! I think the issues you bring up are super important to discuss, and the way you presented them very well thought out. 🙌

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This was such a great discussion!
    I was nodding along the whole time while reading this, everything was so spot on. The “I can’t relate” excuse to give a low rating is so annoying! If so, there would be no fantasy or sci-fi or thriller books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Ahh, yeah the I can’t relate excuse is just so weak 😪 Like how can anything fiction exist if you need to relate to everything?

      Like

  12. Yes! I love the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, it’s actually my all time favourite series. But the thing is, I had the chance to become obsessed when I was about 17 or 18. And I constantly wonder if I’d like them as much as I do if I read them now for the first time. It’s what I think about so many books I loved back then and in most cases, I don’t think I would. My reading taste has evolved so much.
    And I think it would be a great start to check out “if you liked, then you’ll like…. ” posts or videos by other people to find books that are similar to your white faves but are more diverse and written by an author of colour. Or go through your favourite tropes and look what diverse books feature them and try reading those instead. It’s actually not hard to find new, non-white books 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My reading tastes have also changed so much! In a way I’m happy for the books I read years ago. Like I’m happy I read them then because I had the opportunity to enjoy them, and now that my reading taste has evolved I have the opportunity to enjoy other types of books too!

      Ooh, I do love those “if you liked, then you’ll like…” posts and videos! I just don’t like it when people try to bring down diverse books by claiming that they copied a much more popular book by a white author, especially when the two books aren’t even that similar.

      Like

  13. This was an eloquently written discussion, all the points you brought up made so much sense! Ah, I agree — diverse books aren’t necessarily meant for one to relate to, but for them to have a broader mindset and understanding of different peoples and the world we live in. Congratulations on the win, it was so well deserved!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss exactly! I feel like literature has always been a way for people to learn more about different cultures and experiences, and people limiting what they read based on the fact that they don’t relate to it strikes me as so ridiculous!

      Ahh, thank you so much!! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I also think this is a really important discussion to be having! Thank you for sharing. As a white reader, I’ve always loved the more diverse stories because they’re just so much more interesting. I also never read a lot of the super popular books from the 2010s due to college and working but I’m trying to catch up this year. I am currently reading Six of Crows actually. I’m really enjoying it but I’m not sure if I understand all the hype around it or not yet?

    I just saw someone on Twitter this week saying it’s really hard to find POC book reviewers on Goodreads, especially ones that have read POC books. I think that’s a really interesting revelation.

    I do love that this year I have been seeing a LOT more BIPOC authors and books in my timelines and around book bloggers. I think it’s awesome and hope the trend continues. Good representation matters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I love reading diverse stories! And oooh, yes! I read Six of Crows last year and I really enjoyed it! I do think that a lot of the hype might have something to do with the culture around the Grishaverse as a whole.

      Ooh, that’s so interesting! This is one of the reasons that I love following blogs for reviews and book recommendations rather than Goodreads. It’s usually a lot easier to find a blogger that you know will blog about diverse books than it might be to find someone on Goodreads.

      Like

  15. Love your complaint about people calling books underrated when they have a gazillion reviews and people are constantly gushing about them. I’ve seen that for “Hidden Gems” posts too. Like it’s not a hidden gem is it’s on a million lists, people!

    I definitely get your point about reviewers saying they couldn’t relate to a character, but I do think that it’s valid that we might be able to connect to some characters more easily than others. I’ve read books with characters I felt I couldn’t relate to that I’ve still LOVED and also some that I haven’t. I could possibly see mentioning that fact in either type of review (though I don’t write negative reviews anymore, so it really doesn’t matter), just to point out how my experience of the book might differ from someone else’s. But I’d definitely never go on and on about a culture outside my own being “unrelatable” or anything.

    Thanks for sharing this post!!!

    Like

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