On the Subject of Variety in Reading

For a lot of people, explaining what they enjoy reading is easily done with one or two words: science fiction, fantasy, romance, nonfiction. Through no fault but my own (yes, you read that correctly) my own explanation is a little more complex. Upon graduating from college I realized that I could finally read whatever I wanted since my time wasn’t occupied with literary analysis, and I started keeping track of the books I was reading for fun; looking back at what I read in 2016, the variety present among the patterns is rather striking.

To deny oneself the ability to explore all of the possibilities in literature is simply wasting a grand opportunity to grow. I understand people have their favorite genres or authors (Lord knows I do), but remaining static in our reading only keeps us in one place as human beings. A case for reading the same author or genre is easily made, but why should we diversify when it is so much more comfortable to remain in what we know?

Variety snapshot.jpg
Though this image illustrates my point, the lack of organization is figuratively killing me inside.

 

Reading the same types of books can become stale after a while; noticing common tropes and obvious similarities to other novels has actually turned me off from a book on more than one occasion. Granted, there are authors who seek to push their genres but the vast majority of genre novels by definition use similar plot points and motifs. The reason people continue to write new and exciting stories within genres is to push those boundaries and bring something to the table that hasn’t occurred before.

Similar to those added elements helping to progress the evolution of a genre, reading different types of books expands the range of both our reading and our perspectives. I didn’t read nonfiction for a long time, mostly because my area of study was literature and fiction; through expanding my horizons by forcing (an unfortunate but apt verb) myself into reading nonfiction, I now see its value through its inherent capacity for simultaneous instruction and entertainment.

Bookshelf.jpg
We’re getting there; less clutter and at least the authors are grouped.

That being said, I also realize people come to love the elements of specific genres and that this consistency is often comforting to them. I read science fiction and fantasy  novels almost exclusively from when I was very young to high school. I loved the escapism these genres afforded me which was essential while I was in my transitional teens.

Though absorbing these imaginative stories helped me to cope with the social and personal struggles of high school, it wasn’t until I started to branch out in my reading that I began to see more of the world, written or otherwise. Thanks to this broadened perspective and willingness to try new things, I can find books I would never have read otherwise. For example, I had originally removed Love in the Time of Cholera from my reading list when I saw it classified as a romance novel. As can be seen in my review, it is so much more than that and if I hadn’t afforded it a second chance and put it back on my list I would have continued to dismiss it incorrectly as just another sappy love story.

Library.jpg
I’m just going to assume this is organized. I mean, it’s a library right?

Since I overcame my apprehension and took the time to read the book, I now have added credibility to any critiques or opinions I may hold. I have read Twilight and feel this gives me the ability to comment on it rather than dismissing it due to the common consensus among literary snobs. Did I like it? That’s a complicated question. I see its value as a romance novel, if a flawed one, but the supernatural fiction fan in me balks at the very idea of calling the creatures in the book vampires. Again, the credibility of my argument without actually reading the book is moot because I would have no actual experience or evidence from which to draw.

I have a decent track record of selecting books that interest me and I end up enjoying most of them (though not always). Without putting ourselves out there as readers and trying new things, we limit the possibility of growing not only our literary tastes but what we are able to identify with as well. Implementing variety in our reading can expand our worldviews with something as simple as a google search, though nothing compares to the recommendation of a friend or local book seller.

Artsy Fartsy.jpg
This one’s for the artsy-fartsy crowd.

As cozy as reading one genre or type of book can be, there is more to be gained from diversifying our interests than from remaining stagnant and stubborn. We may find characters and stories that speak to us more than anything we have previously encountered, and that in turn may lead us to interactions with real people that we may have shied away from. Adding variety to your reading doesn’t have to be like a bucket of cold water in your face; ease into it and just try with one book that overlaps with some  of your interests but takes place in a different genre; you won’t regret it.

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24 thoughts on “On the Subject of Variety in Reading

  1. This is such a good post, I share your experience with non fiction.
    One of the best pleasures in my life as a reader, was how my reading horizon has stretched in the past years, and how it keeps stretching.
    Reading widely is so dynamic, staying in some confines shrinks the joys of reading, and makes it anemic. I enjoyed how you expressed it.
    The more one reads, the less snobbish airs, and the better perspective. I have not read Twilight, but I enjoyed Hunger Games in their category very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to know I’m not alone and thank you! I have a pretty eclectic taste in music so variety comes easily there, but it sometimes needs to be consciously implemented for my reading. I have some opinions about YA fiction in general but I’ll save that rant for another time haha.

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  2. I also grew up mainly reading fantasy novels, but I find reading widely to be so much more rewarding and interesting. That’s one thing I’ve loved about reading and writing book blogs over the years, is that it’s really expanded my reading.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Writing this blog and implementing a sort of classic literature/nonfiction/ fun fiction pattern in my TBR has definitely forced me to expand my reading and the pros outweigh the cons. I still pick up a fantasy or sci-fi novel (as can be seen in my reviews haha) but I make sure to spread them out more. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. One of my people! I feel like I can identify with this perfectly. For me, it was Star Wars, Star Trek, and Tolkien. And then one day the world exploded as I made connections out to other things. These days I read a great deal of non-fiction. The more I learn, the more I don’t know, and the more I want to know just on account. Same with fiction. I’m discovering so much these days. Some of the greatest books out there defy the genre classifications they’ve been stamped with.

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  4. I’m editing a translation of a book about Philosophy of Education, and check this up!

    In another matter, let that great “remedial thinker,” Dr. Arnold, advise us:—“Adjust your proposed amount of reading to your time and inclination; but whether that amount be large or small let it be varied in its kind and widely varied. If I have a confident opinion on any one point connected with the improvement of the human mind it is on this.”*

    (It’s written in the Victorian era)

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  5. Great post. I feel like I had more variety in my reading when I was a teenager, in my early twenties I read mostly young adult literature but now I’m really trying to read various genres, and more nonfiction than ever before.

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  6. I find I’m more restrictive in my reading choices now than when I was younger which appears to be the opposite of you. I think maybe because I’m having to think hard all day to earn a wage books that are comfortable is how I relax although even reading within a few genres I manage to find enough variety to keep me entertained. I do however applaud your wish to grow and explore!

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    1. That makes a lot of sense to me and I will be the first to say that the books I choose to read usually fall near my main interests because they are so comfortable. It doesn’t matter too much to me as long as you are reading something you enjoy. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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  7. This is really well articulated. If I have a favourite genre, it’s Crime. I read a lot of Crime. I jokingly say it’s because the world makes me Falling Down angry at times, and reading Crime novels stops me going Michael Douglas! But I also read other books, and try to read books from other countries and cultures because, as you so rightly say, it expands my horizons and broadens my perspective on the world. I like this line in your editorial “remaining static in our reading only keeps us in one place as human beings”. Reading diversely, I think, helps us to stand in others’ shoes and empathise with other points of view.
    What you say about common tropes in genres made me smile. I’m reading The Pelican Brief, and read your review of A Time to Kill because I’ve never read Grisham before and wanted to know what another of his books might be like. For a split second I felt disappointed because the plot of A Time to Kill is similar to a plot strand in The Pelican Brief, which he wrote only three years later. But then I got over myself because for years I loved Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels, so what did I expect from a best selling writer of legal thrillers?
    I’m glad to have found your blog, it’s good to have thoughts provoked.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are so kind to say many of those things. I realize that I can never fully understand the life of another human being, but I feel there is so much missed opportunity if I don’t at least make an effort. I’m glad to know I have provoked you in a positive way haha.

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  8. I personally get obsessed with a writer and will not stop until I read everything they wrote, ever. Anne Rice, Stephen king, Dean Koontz and this year I’m slowly going through Orson Scott Card. Oh, forgot Margaret Atwood and Joe Hill 🦁

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      1. Most of the books I have reviewed on here have come from looking up “Top X number of books” online or from recommendations of friends. I have also started looking for recommendations on other review blogs and those will often expose me to books I might never have heard of otherwise. I also just have a huge backlog of three separate TBR lists to pull from haha.

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