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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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!