Reading Outside the Box

Everybody has genres and formats that they especially love to read. And, hey, that’s great! Every reader sometimes wants to be able to grab a book that they are likely to love.

But it’s not a bad thing to read outside your box sometimes, too. In fact, some of my favorite literary discoveries have been when I took a deep breath and plunged into a different part of the fiction section. Two of my big loves right now, graphic novels and historical romance novels are things I wouldn’t have touched five to ten years ago.

But if you’re not used to going outside your favorite genre, it can be a scary proposition. How can you best do it? Closing your eyes and grabbing blindly at the shelves has its perks, but if you’re not that comfortable, there are other ways to increase your probability of enjoying your first foray into a new genre.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned:

  • Ask someone who loves that genre. When my sister started to get into romance novels a few years ago, I thought I should try reading some too. So, I asked her what I should read. She gave me several of her favorite romance novels she had on her shelf, and gave me a list of her favorite authors. It was a lot less intimidating to dive into the romance section (which is huge) when I knew some names of authors I might enjoy.
  • Check out reviews and lists. The internet has a huge amount of websites where people can tell you what they thought about books. They range from personal blogs to Amazon reviews to social media sites like Goodreads to professional review sites. It can be hugely overwhelming, but if you break it down and find people who have interests and tastes in common with yours, it can be a great resource. There are also lots of organizations that release awards and booklists throughout the year. I recently checked out the ALA’s Reference and User Services Division 2014 reading list, which is divided into several genres. They pick their top book in each section, list some read-alikes, and include their shortlist, too. You could spend the whole year working through this list!
  • Talk to the library staff! The people who work at Eckhart Public Library are readers too, and they all have some great suggestions. We love to talk about books! Our volunteers are a good resource, too. Let us know what you like, or what you’re looking for, and we can help you find what you want to read.
  • Don’t be afraid to like it. Sometimes, the thought that you might hate a book in a certain genre can really color your perception of that book. Try to let those prejudices go as much as possible, and as you’re reading, think positively about what you like about the book. Even if you don’t love it as much as your favorite books, you may be able to find something worthwhile about it.
  • Don’t be afraid to not finish it. If you really can’t stand a book, though, don’t finish it! It’s not high school English class, and nobody will give you a test on the book you just read. Everybody has put down a book halfway through before, and there’s no shame in it! There are dozens more books that you might like better, so go find one of those and try again!
  • Don’t judge a genre by one book. Try several books in a genre before declaring outright that you hate the whole genre. Within each broad genre, there are many, many subgenres. You might dislike low fantasy, but be enthralled by high fantasy. You might not like steampunk, but you might like military science fiction. You might like cozy mysteries but not intense murder mystery-thrillers. Genres are a bit loose anyway, and books can increasingly be categorized into more than one genre. Try a broad range before declaring you absolutely can’t stand an entire genre.

So, armed with this knowledge, what genres or books do you plan to try that are outside of your box?

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About Jenny

I am the Associate Director of Eckhart Public Library. My office is in the Administrative Annex, but I can often be found roaming the Eckhart Public Library Campus, performing acts of librarianship in every department! I love to read and learn about history. I'm also a huge fan of movies, TV and pop culture in general, and I love to read books of all types. Currently, I'm working my way around the romance section, with some historical fiction and graphic novels thrown in for variety! But you never know what I'm going to pick up next.
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