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Diversity

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?


5 Responses to Diversity

  1. Joelle says:

    I read from different genres and categories, but there are things I won’t read…like horror. If someone recommends something, I’ll give it a shot, but have no problem abandoning it if I am not interested after even a few pages. I used to give every book fifty pages, but not anymore.

    I used to be embarrassed to pick up a chick lit book, or cozy murder mystery, but I’ve learned those are PERFECT books to read when I’m editing because they’re so different than what I write. And they can be fun and sexy, which is a nice change. I have to admit, I did tuck one away the other day when I knew people were coming over, but I will read them in public occasionally, so I’m not as bad about it as I used to be!

  2. Even within my preferred genres (fantasy and science fiction), there are lots of things that just aren’t my thing. How much I’m willing to try depends somewhat on mood and somewhat on content. Some things I will not enjoy, and I don’t see the point in forcing it. Generally, though, I like to read across a wide spectrum.

    I think it’s vital for writers to do so. Not only does it expand your mental horizons, but it can make you aware of alternate ways of storytelling and make you more aware, by contrast, of different tropes and conventions in the genre you write. This can help you mix it up and add a unique spin to your books so they stand out over everybody else’s.

  3. D. C. DaCosta says:

    Interesting topic, and not one I’ve seen discussed much…. I’ve never joined a book club for the reason that life is too short to waste time reading genres or authors you dislike. And at my time of life, I pretty much know what I like or find interesting.

    To be perfectly honest, I read for recreation as little as possible nowadays. I learned two lessons a long time ago:

    FIRST, if you want to write well, you have to read…but you have to read GOOD stuff (i.e., not the average drugstore paperback).

    SECOND, my personal writing style mimics that of whatever author I am reading. Consequently, when I’m actively writing, I have to limit exposure to other styles, so as not to adulterate the “voice” of my narrator or characters.

  4. Sarah Henson says:

    I stick to what I love, but I love a wide array of genres. Mostly mystery, thriller, horror, YA, light fantasy, and classics. I consider that a pretty diverse spread. I’ll read the occasional general adult fiction (like “Life of Pi”) or biography or nonfiction novel (like “Homer’s Odyssey” by Gwen Cooper).

    There are too many books I know I want to read to try and force myself to read something I’m not interested in.

    As a writer, I try to read widely in my genre (YA), but I think it’s important to read other genres as well because you can learn from them, and reading more will always make you a better writer.

  5. Hey!

    I have to admit that until the last few years I was Terry Pratchett / Douglas Adams devotee. Recentlly though I have discovered many amazing high fantasy and more gritty fantasy authors whom I love to read. My writing is very much in the vein of Pratchett / Adams, yet when I write I don’t like to read similar literature – I like to keep my reading and writing minds separate. So at the moment whilst I’m writing/blogging the silly “In That Other Dimension” I’m reading Kurt Vonnegut and Karen Miller.

    I also like to challenge myself and write in different styles, so I do write poetry, lyrics, travel blogs from time to time. I’ve recently written a very dark short story (which I’ve entered into a competition so I can’t blog at the moment) – very different to my usual genre! I believe that writing outside of your comfort zone is the best way to improve, and fill in those holes that may exist in your current skills.

    Anyway, an interesting discussion! Thanks!

    Matty

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