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Reading Across Genres & Beautiful Discoveries

Do you like reading across genres, lovely people? Do you read whatever…

Do you like reading across genres, lovely people? Do you read whatever catches your fancy, or do you stick to certain genres only?

For years I was very firm about what I did and didn’t read. I had very clear opinions on it. These softened somewhat as I got out of my teens and twenties (as so many opinions seem to do), but I was still pretty clear about it.

“Oh, I read just about everything,” I’d say. “Except romance. I don’t like that. Or non-fiction. Or historical fiction. I’m not a big fan of much contemporary fiction, either. Or classics. Or—”

Yeah, I know. I’d have been quicker listing what I did read.

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I think all my bookshelves looked like this in my teens…

But I really believed that I didn’t read all these things. And, for a while, maybe I didn’t. I definitely remember as a teenager that the cover needed to be black, with highlights of dripping blood and/or green slime for me to be interested. But you do eventually run out of decent horror to read, especially when you’re travelling in pre-kindle days, and don’t have the money to buy new books. Like it or not, you’re going to read everything you can get your hands on, because (at least for me), having something to read is more important than it being the exact book you want.

Plus, tastes change. But still I was convinced that there were all these genres I just didn’t read, or read only because there was nothing else around.

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These are related. Honest.

Only it turns out that, when I look at my shelves (and my poor overloaded kindle), that’s not quite right. It turns out that I really do read everything, because for me it’s less about the genre of the book than the book itself.

For example, I’m not much of a romance reader. I’ve read a bit of Marian Keyes and Amanda Holden and so on, and they’re easy reads, but not really my thing. However, my lovely writer friend Anna has let me read quite a few of her WIPs, and they’re fantastic. They’re sweet and hilarious and not at all sappy, and I love them. She’s also pointed me to vampire romance (very good) and a shifter M/M romance (also very good). And at some point, because I knew the writer, I also found myself reading alien erotica. Which was actually excellent, although my sci-fi tendencies came through because I really, really wanted to know more about the world and less about, well, alien appendages. Although they were very interesting alien appendages.

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One is a story about chain-smoking, alcoholic pigeons trying to survive outside the lab. The other is beautiful fairy tale retellings. Because variety matters.

And then there’s another writer friend who writes amazing fairy tale re-tellings. Once I probably would have approached them with some sniffiness about romance and happily ever afters and so on, and I would have missed out on so much. Because they are beautiful. Smart and powerful and meaningful and beyond excellent. I’m a convert, although they may have spoilt me for other re-tellings.

Non-fiction, well, you know, it has to be interesting. And funny. Or to do with the Arctic or Antarctic. Or space. Or physics. Biology’s good. Oh, and I quite like a bit of psychology. Or philosophy. Wait – I was saying I didn’t like non-fiction, right?

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Shifter romance and beautiful contemporary. Neither genres I read, of course.

Contemporary? Eh. There’s a bit too much crying into the kitchen sink going on in a lot of them for me. But then I do like Paul Torday. And Fredrick Backman is just wonderful and beautiful and makes me cry happy tears. And there are definitely blurry lines between contemporary and certain strains of magical realism that I enjoy. Not to mention that you’d probably class Irvine Walsh and Scarlett Thomas in there, too.

So, okay. I like contemporary sometimes.

And classics really depends, doesn’t it? Of course I love Poe and Lovecraft and M.R. James and Twain and Stevenson and Orwell, and more modern classics such as Kerouac and Bradbury and even a bit of Hemingway. So really I just don’t like Austen and the Brontes and Hardy and that lot. Although now I’m worried that if I tried them without the need to write a high school essay hanging over my head, I actually might.

I do have one last area of resistance, though. Historical fiction. Not my thing. Actually, it’s probably not even fair to say that, as I can’t think of a single historical book I’ve read. Best not, then, because I do need to have at least one thing I can point to and say, I don’t read that, right?

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Tea, though. No matter the genre, always tea.

Anyhow, this was a long way round to talking about how easy it can be to become stuck in what we think we read, without really considering it properly. Not just the fact that there are outliers, books we’d likely enjoy if we tried them, but also the fact that many books don’t sit that well in genres. They splay and spread, and you can claim then as more than one thing. So saying that we “don’t read” certain genres could be doing us out of some very good reads. For me, I still gravitate immediately to the sci-fi and fantasy shelves in any bookshop I go into, although I know I read a lot more than that. And I can’t help thinking about all the wonderful books I’ve missed along the way with my “I don’t read that.” About how easy it is to limit myself down and not want to explore out of my little area.

So I’m not saying it anymore. I’m going to just say that I read pretty much everything, and never mind the qualifiers. I’ll see what works and what I like and think of it as exploring new worlds – which, of course, it is.

How about you, lovely people? What do you read or not read? Have you ever been surprised by reading outside your genre? Let me know what your finds have been below!

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  1. Lisa Sell says:

    Since I met the husband, my reading horizons have considerably broadened. He loves fantasy and Sci-fi, which have never been my favoured genres.

    I’ve now read some Pratchett. I even named our cats after the Nac Mac Feegles. I’ve also read some Gaiman.

    Aling with books, I’ve changed my TV and film habits. I swore I’d never watch Star Wars. I devoured the lot in a few days. I now currently working my way through Doctor Who, another thing I thought I’d never watch.

    While I still love my favoured crime, mystery, and thrillers, I’ve definitely learnt a lot about going outside my genre box.

    1. kimwatt says:

      It’s fantastic when you find someone who can point you in the direction of books in other genres that actually work for you! I’m terrible with movies and TV shows, as I’m always do far behind on everything, so when someone recommends a show that really fits with me, it’s fantastic. Like you, I definitely haven’t stopped reading my favoured genres, but it’s fun to have more options!

  2. Jon says:

    You’ve read at least one historical fiction story; I know, because I wrote it.

    Funnily enough, the genre I avoid most these days is straight-up fantasy; the tropes are so hackneyed that it is only fit for humour these days. (Please note that my Aiella stories are only technically fantasy, since there is no magic in them whatever …)

    1. kimwatt says:

      No! You’ve shattered my last hold-out, too, because I really enjoyed that story. But then, I really enjoy a lot of the old sailing and navy stories… Wait. Damnit.

      And I rarely read straight fantasy – not since my teens, really. The last time I tried I was put off by far too much weight on description and not enough on character building. Apparently my patience has worn thin on that!

      And Aiella was fantastic – perfect balance of humour, adventure, and emotion. I love those stories!

  3. I also have a list of things I supposedly don’t read. Until I do. And sometimes I won’t admit to certain genres because they’re not as deep-sounding as others. Until I rave about them to someone else and discover my deep-boook-reading friend also feels guilty for liking the same book. I’ll never forget when a friend introduced me to Diana Gabaldon’s books, which I LOVE. She was almost embarrassed to admit she was reading the first one because she didn’t want me to think she was reading a Scottish romance bodice-ripper (which the books aren’t, but that was her perception, due to her normal book diet of YA, fantasy, and nonfiction). We still laugh about how she was reluctant to tell me the title and author’s name of the book she was so obviously enjoying.

    There are still certain genres I don’t really seek out, but my “I don’t read” claims have come back to bite me more often than not. Never say never and all that, right?

    1. kimwatt says:

      Definitely never day never! I have found myself reading the most unusual things, and while they’re not all wins, enough of them are that I’m happy to take the chance most of the time these days.

      And that’s so funny about your friend! I used to be a bit embarrassed to admit how many middle grade books I read, and would feel weird about reading them in public. Now I just enjoy them and admire the fact that there are so many talented writers writing such clever and entertaining stories out there. Although I still get a bit hesitant about recommending them unless I’m certain people have the same tastes as me!

      On that note, too, I still remember about five years ago chatting with a friend who’s terribly well read and intellectual, and reads widely in both French and English. Her shelves are packed with classics and the sort of books I probably wouldn’t even dare tackle, but we ended up bonding over Carl Hiassen and Christopher Brookmyre…

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