One of the greatest things that publishing has done for me (besides pay my rent, for which my landlord is surely grateful!) is broaden my horizons dramatically. As the DGLM old guard will surely attest, I showed up here as a huge snob, albeit a snob without much love for the classics. This meant, as you might imagine, there wasn’t much variety in the books that I enjoyed. Much of the advice I received when I started here was along the lines of “Get over yourself” because of my great wiser-than-thou proclamations on what was just not good enough for me. It’s actually a testament to his restraint that Jim has never punched me in the face, actually. I was insufferable.
But more than that, I was wrong. Holding books to a high standard is important, and I still do it, but it took me a while to recognize that books don’t all have to serve the same purpose to be worthy. Now I’m lucky that when I found myself in Barnes & Noble yesterday, where I’d gone for a magazine but needed to buy a book to hold to my 2012 rule about not walking out of any bookstore without a new book in my bag, I felt like I had all the choices in the world. Ultimately I was weighing my options between a book of critical cultural essays and young adult historical fiction—a debate that took me about 7 minutes of standing thoughtfully near an escalator, deciding whether to go up or down a floor. But I could just as easily picked up a new paranormal romance or thriller, or a sports book or political polemic. That’s the great thing about books—whatever experience you’re looking for, there’s always different book to turn to.
Working in publishing, particularly as an agent, I find I sometimes forget that not all readers read this way. When selecting a book for the book club I started with friends, several people decided to bow out based on the choice, because it’s not their kind of thing. It startled me to realize that I’m not the kind of person who’d feel that way anymore—if it wasn’t my kind of thing, I’d want the social pressure to read it and experience something new. I might still have my tastes and preferences, but I’m now someone who is always willing to give a book a shot.
What about you? Do you stick to what you know you love (because, frankly, whatever the category you’re unlikely to run out of books!) or branch out? Do you love books across genres and categories or prefer to stick to one or two? And if you’re a writer, how do you think the diversity or lack thereof in what you read impacts your writing?