When children learn to read, they choose books based on their interests. Dinosaurs, super heroes, ocean life, fairies, and adventure stories are all fair game. As they grow, they develop a preference for certain story types. We know them as genres.
Adults usually discover two or three genres they enjoy reading and tend to stick to them. The story flow becomes familiar, and readers expect certain things. Fantasy readers will expect magic and adventure; readers of mystery, crime, or thrillers will expect a sense of suspense and danger; sci-fi fans know there will be futuristic worlds and inventions. Reading becomes comfortable.
What happens, though, if you branch out and read outside of your comfort level?
I’ve experienced this several times in the last few years, and it’s pleasantly surprising. The top three genres I gravitate towards are, in no particular order, fantasy, contemporary fiction, and speculative fiction. Of course, there are sub-genres, but this gives you an overview of my preferred novels.
Over the last few years, I’ve pushed myself to read books I usually wouldn’t pick up. So far, there’s only one I haven’t enjoyed. The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix was not for me. I read it after an excellent review by a friend, but there were too many aspects that made me cringe. Some books I appreciated and even recommended to others are:
The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz — This is a memoir about escaping from a Soviet labor camp in 1941. The escapees spent months in the freezing cold of Siberia, and this book recounts their trek. I read it for a book club and would never choose it for myself. But the impression it left on me is powerful.
The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness — I mentioned this in my last newsletter and have since finished the entire series. This is a young adult science fiction novel that takes place on an alien world where men’s thoughts are visible or heard by everyone around them. I had a book hangover for days.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown — I picked this book up at a local bookstore as a “blind date” book, and wasn’t sure about it when I began reading. It started a bit slow for me, but I discovered some thought-provoking scenes as the story progressed. Three adult sisters move back home, secrets are revealed, and relationships are changed.
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult — A mystery novel is not high on my TBR list, and I never heard of this author before but have since explored several other of her novels. A daughter searches for her mother, who disappeared years earlier, and discovers more than she bargained for.
The Lost Queen by Signe Pike — I usually find historical fiction heavy and hard to follow, especially if I’m not particularly familiar with the time period, but this one was very well done. In a time of druids and blooming Christianity, the fate of one girl is also the destiny of her people. The explanations of current events to the modern reader were subtle and just enough to get the point across, so it did not lose me in the details.
The result of reading each of these books was the same. I discovered a story that was engaging and fulfilling. As I continue working through my huge TBR list, I plan to add books from genres or authors outside of my top three genres. I challenge you to do the same. Who knows? You may discover a new favorite author or genre, but at the very least, you will broaden your horizons.
What genres do you like? Comment below and I will try to recommend some books outside of your comfort zone.