Decolonize Your Bookshelf Reading Challenge for 2023

If you have been around these parts for any length of time or follow me on my social media accounts like TikTok, Instagram, or the brand new Mastodon, you will have heard me say my signature phrase:

"It's time to decolonize your bookshelf."

This has been the entire mantra for Paperbacks & Frybread and it's something I will continue to encourage heavily into the new year of 2023.

But this can be a really daunting task, which is why I have created a reading challenge to share with you all to make it oh-so-easy to implement.

2023 Reading Challenge Pinterest Image with Black woman in short hair reading a book.

What does 'Decolonize Your Bookshelf' even mean?

When I was a little girl, I rarely saw books about people like me. The only Indigenous books I was ever exposed to were ones written by white folks about Thanksgiving. This doesn't really make a kid feel seen, lemme tell ya.

As an adult and an avid reader I started working as a book blogger and reviewer for a few years. I can only think of about 1 or 2 of those books being from Black, Indigenous, or other people of color.

Examining my bookshelf while also scanning the shelves in big box bookstores I was seeing a trend. None of these stories looked like me. None of these stories were written by people who looked like my family or my non-white friends.

This is literally why our online book boutique, Paperbacks & Frybread, was born.

I wanted an opportunity to help people add richness and diversity to their shelves. I wanted families of all kinds to see themselves in books and be able to have easier access to them.

Our bookshelves shouldn't look like our homes have been colonized. 

Why is Decolonizing Our Bookshelves important for everyone?

When we have diversity and inclusion on our bookshelves, we have access to different opinions, ideas, and experiences than our own. Books are keys to the world outside our four walls. But if those keys just build us an eco-chamber we are doing a huge disservice to ourselves and our communities.

These stories should challenge us and make us grow and sometimes even make us uncomfortable. Stories of people who aren't like us will absolutely help us breed empathy for humankind.

There is nothing negative that can come from reading books from a plethora of backgrounds. 

I only read fiction, does this apply to me?

When I discuss the the importance of Decolonize Your Bookshelf, those opposed to this idea usually comes with two arguments:

1) They don't care about the race or gender of the author they are reading.

2) They only read fiction so none of this matters.

This is SO far from the truth!

First off, if we aren't intentional about choosing diversity in our books we are doomed to have a bookshelf of only cis, straight, white authors and protagonists. This has a lot to do with the publishing industry and marketing, but we keep encouraging these tactics when we vote with our dollars.

Second, fiction has huge impacts on the world around us. Many times these fictional stories-even the high fantasy kind-can be illustrations of allegories of life and its problems. It would be impossible for an author to not inject their own ideas and experiences into their writing no matter how fantastical it may be.

Works like Animal Farm wouldn't have the impact it did if we only looked at it as as story about animals and their conversations.

Where do I start with 'Decolonizing My Bookshelf"? 

This can be such a daunting task when starting out. But do not fear! This is why I'm here. I created an easy-to-follow reading challenge for 2023. You can see the graphic down below! 

This can be posted on all your social media platforms to encourage your friends and community to join right in along with you!

Decolonize Your Bookshelf Reading Challenge for 2023

Wanna take it a step further? Why not grab one of our Pick Your Magic Book Boxes and let us pick out some books for you? You purchase a box according to your budget, and you tell us the kind of books you're into.

High Fantasy?

Space themed science fiction?

Spicy Romance?

Narrative non-fiction?

Whatever we enjoy we can find you diverse books that fit into those categories.

And if you don't want to do a mystery box, just hit up our chat box on the website and we can give you some recommendations. Even ones we don't have listed on the site just yet!

Decolonizing Your Bookshelf is a lifestyle, not a one time challenge

Take the challenge as guidance. If you don't read this many books in a year don't try and force yourself to read all of these out of shame or guilt. Start with what you're able to and keep moving forward. (And yes, children's books, graphic novels, and audiobooks all count!!!)

Supporting just one author that is out of your normal reading habits is a huge step.

Can you imagine the impact it could have if we all took the initiative to Decolonize Our Bookshelves?


  • I’m participating, but I’ve gotten stuck trying to find South American Indigenous authors. Any recommendations or suggestions for where I can find a list to explore? Thank you!!!!

  • I am very glad I came upon this article. I have been attempting to ‘de-colonize’ my reading for years, ever since I came across “The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe” by Ann Morgan. Based on her suggestion, I am currently on a quest to read a book written by an author from each of the 196 countries in the world.

    I track all my reading in GoodReads. I have read books from 131 countries and have 69 to go! It is the best decision I have made when it comes to reading. I have discovered so many new authors and have learned so much about the world! The digital world makes this easier than you may think. I have read these 131 books mostly for free – I take books out of my library, request books from other local libraries, download books from online sites, and sign up for the free Kindle Unlimited memberships whenever they are available. I always look up each country on Google maps and even go down to ‘street view’ for the settings of each book. I highly recommend it!

    I believe that I have hit everything on the list above but I will still check it out. Happy reading everyone!

    Sue Koz
  • Love this and can’t wait to get started! I’ve already mapped out all the books I want to read and I need to get a physical copy of my library card. (I told myself I can’t buy everything but I’m convinced I’ll relax that rule for whatever I read around my birthday, so I’m excited to have come across this site & storefront!

    Reflecting on this challenge made me add a few more categories that I thought align with similar reads: author from stateless people; book by someone who is a refugee, asylum seeker, or undocumented; book in another language (if applicable); book from a conflict/post-conflict setting.

  • Text Version of the list (if there are any mistakes I apologize) : 1. A North American indigenous author, 2. A South American indigenous author, 3. a Trans Protagonist, 4. A South Asian Author, 5. A non fiction narrative about Racism, 6. an indigenous memoir, 7. A non-binary protagonist, 8. a queer Romance, 9. An Afro-American Author, 10. A story from Africa, 12. A maori Author, 13. BIPOC Poetry, 14. a non-colonial historical story, 15. A non-christian mythology, 16. a latine / latinX, 17. BIPOC Children’s Author, 18. a queer Children’s Author, 19. A BIPOC adoptee Author, 20. BIPOC middle grade, 21. A non- medieval fantasy, 22. A non- us Historical Fantasy, 23. An Afro-Futurism Story, 23. A Story About Mental health, 24. A middle eastern author, 25. a disabled Protagonist, 26 A neurodivergent Protagonist, 27. An indie author

  • (Feel free not to publish this comment – just making a suggestion here.) I love this challenge and want to rise to it.

    I have one small suggestion for this page: how about replacing (or supplementing) the graphic with a text version, so that it can be read by screen readers and other web accessibility technology? Right now, the actual criteria of the challenge is not readable otherwise. (Because it’s a graphic, at the moment it also cannot easily be zoomed in or made more readable by visually impaired folks.)

    This wonderful challenge and its is important and this would help it reach as many people as possible. Thanks again for all you do!

    A G

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