Knowing (and reading) your genre

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For a really long time, I just basically read whatever came my way. You give me a title, I’ll check it out. I never considered any genre to be my go-to genre and felt the bookish world to be my oyster. I wanted to read all the books.

However, you find out at one point or another that not all books are made for you. I think it’s at some point in every reader’s life they discover the genres that they enjoy the most. Sometimes it’s a gradual pull towards it. Other times, it just finds you. It’s always good to know what genres you like because then of course, you’ll never get bored.

But what if you don’t know what genre you’re interested in? How do you discover it for yourself? This I learned recently while trying to get into thrillers and mysteries.

I kind of shied away from mysteries and thrillers because I have some pretty bad anxiety when it comes to those reads. I think the last book I read was Gone Girl and that not only scared the crap out of me, but I think I remember throwing the book across the room. Thrillers have been a mystery to me, so I decided I wanted to take a deep dive into the genre.

I picked out a few books from my Book of the Month Club and I agreed to review a few mystery novels. I wanted to get a sense of the genre and see if perhaps this is for me. Sadly, it wasn’t. I didn’t find the thriller genre to be as fun and interesting as what I normally gravitate towards.

Now I know that thrillers and mysteries don’t really get me reading more, but I don’t know what I like to read.

I took a deep dive into my Goodreads account to see. I’ve been keeping a record of my books since 2011, so I knew I would find some good stuff there. There were a few patterns I can easily find and I think that this quickly decided what my favorite genres were.

It appeared that my favorite genres were Literary Fiction, YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and a little Romance. Of course I’ve also been reading a ton of diverse reads over the past few years as well.

It didn’t really shock me that I read these genres specifically. I guess I didn’t see this pattern before because I’m so used to reading whatever came my way. Perhaps there were more of these genres that came my way than others. It’s kind of funny when you dive into something like this and figure out that you’ve been running patterns you’re entire life.

Oddly, I felt empowered. I knew exactly what genres I loved reading, but the new challenge I came across was understanding what the basics are of these genres. No one wants to be the guy that announces their favorite genres and hasn’t read the “staple” novels. Would other genre-readers be able to identify with you or are you just a “poseur” pretending to like something you have no understanding about?

I’ve finally come to terms with the genres that I love, so now I’m on the quest to find the books that make up these genres. I’m pretty sure I’d get the proverbial shit kicked out of me for not reading the definitive works that defined the genre. I mean, I might have tried to read Lord of the Rings, but those movies came out and were so conveniently easier to watch than read.

I’m looking to expand my own universe by reading books in genres I actually like. I’m going to start with some staples and then work my way through other books. It’s so great to find something that you’re interested in. It’s like pulling from an endless library where every book is something your heart would desire. 

I’ll be updating you on the progress I’m making and creating some definitive guides to the genres in the future. For now, I’m happy knowing my genre and now I get to read from it.

How to become a reader

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-11-57-39-amI was thinking about this over the weekend while visiting my boyfriend’s family. His sister has three kids under the age of three, which makes life a little more challenging. While talking with her, she asked me for some book recommendations. “I just have these times when I read a bunch of books at once and then stop reading for a while.”

I thought that was great and proceeded to provide her with a few of my favorite books from over the summer. But our conversation made me think a little bit about readers and reading. What constitutes a good reader?

Do you need to have a bookshelf overflowing with books?

Do you have to carry a book with you everywhere you go?

What does it mean to be a reader? How can you become a reader?

Some people believe readers are intellectual people who mutter random quotes at you and tries to find the metaphor in everything they do. They read “hard books” like Proust or Faulkner or Tolstoy. However, I don’t like to see readers in that light. We’re not this exclusive club that you need to prove yourself by reading 80 books a year or written a dissertation on Barthes theory. If anything, we’re the most inclusive club you can join because every reader promotes reading to everyone everywhere.

It’s important for humans to read. There’s so many worlds and cultures and histories that you can learn from books that to not read is almost like holding yourself back from your fullest potential. It’s a disservice and even one book can break you from that shell you’re hiding in 😉

If you’re only reading a book every three or four months, that’s ok! We all have busy lives and different responsibilities. It doesn’t discount you from the readership. However, if you just can’t seem to get yourself into reading, here’s a few tips for you:

Read what you loved

Don’t go all crazy and try to read Jonathan Franzen right out the gate. You’ll end up burning out and giving up. Instead, read something that you’ve read before and you remember loving. Perhaps it’s a middle grade or children’s book, but that shouldn’t stop you. My favorite book growing up was The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. When I first started reading more books, I started with this one because I remembered my enjoyment when reading it as a kid. Reading something you remember loving helps you find your groove. What was it about the book that you loved? What can you find in other books that follow that same line of thinking? It’s a good way to get that imagination revved and ready to read.

Find what works for you

Haters gonna hate like readers gonna read. Don’t worry about what the haters are going to say, just read for the love of reading. I never would have thought myself as the type of person to love reading romance and YA. Even silly books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey were enough inspiration for me to find similar or even better books than those. Yeah, these books get a lot of flack amongst other human beings (let alone the book community), but they’re books nonetheless and they sparked a readership in me that other books weren’t able to find. If you love romance novels, then love romance novels. If you love YA, then love YA. If you’re scared to read these genres out in public, get an e-reader. They’ll never know 😉

Challenge yourself

Now that you’ve gotten into the groove of reading, challenge yourself. See how long it takes you to read that book in your hand. Start a Goodreads account or even buy yourself a journal to not only keep track of what you’re reading, but also keep track of what you think. Books will do that even if you don’t want them to. They’ll make you think about things in a different way or see a different perspective.

Don’t get too caught up in the details of a character, but understand and appreciate who this character is and what they contribute to the story. Form some opinions around what you like to see when you read. Reading can almost mimic data analytics. If you’re a business person or work in operations like I do, then you’ll find patterns in the books you like. You’ll find the areas and traits that really grab hold of you and you can use that to help you to read even more.

And that’s it! Reading isn’t about how fast you can do it or how many books you can read. If you end up reading one book this year, that’s more than other people have in the last five years. If you love books, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards them. It’s like a love story. Some people have short bursts of relationships with books while others it’s a constant affair. There’s no judgments. Open your heart and read a little today!

So what do you believe makes you a reader?