Our site's growing a bit of a diversity problem. Most of us have read many of the same books, and so many of the questions we get are... about those books specifically. The top site tags betrays this bias: look past the generic tags, and you run face-first into George Orwell, 1984, Sherlock Holmes, JRR Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harper Lee, William Golding, and Shakespeare.
This bias is derivative from the culture in which most of us grew up. Even across country lines, in English-speaking countries, many of the books that are considered "important" and "literary" are shared. We also may or may not be pulling some to much of this from Scifi Stack Exchange.
But there's a whole lot of literature out there sitting in topics we're not even touching. It's not that we're intentionally avoiding those areas - it's just that the way we've been taught to read has passively encouraged us to avoid books that are too far out from what we're used to. And the body of works that are deemed "classic" and "literary" by our culture is, despite its harsh limitation, so broad that one could spend decades reading and still not finish.
This is an issue for our site. Ultimately, a literature site is best served by being multicultural and pluralistic, rather than beset by an unconscious, unintentional, and very historical bias toward one category alone. Hamlet has remarked that this narrowing could be a serious risk to the site's health if it goes unaddressed, I think they may be correct.
There's hardly going to be a quick fix... but I had an idea. At least as first steps.
A lot of sites have topic challenges. These sites have a meta post where people answer with suggestions for what the next topic challenge could be, and when the next one rolls around, the top answer is picked and a new topic challenge is born. For the duration of the challenge, people post questions and answers pertaining to it.
I'm thinking of a variation of this for Literature.SE. How about we create a topic challenge dedicated specifically to content that fall well outside of what we normally read? Each month (month? discuss:), we pick the top answer, which has been selected by the community for its diversification, either culturally, structurally, or really in any positive way, and those of us who wish to do so go ahead and read it. It can be anything - oral tradition, mythology, fantasy, philosophy, you name it - as long as there's enough there to reasonably fill a casual month with reading, it's good.
We'd want to strongly encourage people to upvote books different than what they normally read, and to let be in peace answers that are pretty similar to books they've read in the past. We'd also want, perhaps, to encourage content that's challenging to understand.
There would be very few good reasons to downvote suggestions - maybe if they weren't large enough to reasonably fill a month, or if it's excessively difficult to get ahold of a copy of the book, or if it's not just hard but downright inaccessible as a text from outside the culture. (Though we have to be careful - books from different cultures are a priori harder both to get ahold of and to understand. We don't want to end up discouraging them.)
I think this is, at minimum, a good step toward addressing the quiet and surreptitious narrowing of the scope of the site. At the very minimum, actually getting our hands on multicultural books is the first step in learning how to handle and talk about these issues better, so it has to be our starting point.
What are your thoughts?