My first literary love is the science fiction and fantasy genre, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing I ever read.
Today I wanted to talk about why it’s such a good idea to read books from a wide range of genres.
It Introduces You to New Ideas
Non-fiction is a wonderful example of this. One of the reasons why I read so much of it is that it spends a lot of time exploring why and how people can change the way a society operates.
For example, a history of a specific war may talk about difficult decisions government officials made that either helped or hurt their cause. Smart, rational people make terrible and wonderful choices for all kinds of complex reasons that can’t be boiled down to a pithy paragraph or two.
I’ve often thought about the dilemmas those historical figures while I’m working on my own stories or when I’m trying to figure out a problem in my personal life. You can learn a lot about life and how humans behave by paying attention to how people solved problems in the past.
It Changes the Way You Look at the World
Reading a wide variety of books gives you glimpses of all kinds of things that you’ll never experience in your daily life, from what life was like ten thousand years ago to how people live on the other side of this planet.
Life is also rarely a black-and-white experience. My favourite part of jumping from one genre to the next is how it changes the way I look the exact same scene depending on which literary lens I just finished wearing.
A sunny meadow could be the site of a amorous picnic in a romance novel, the final resting place of the bad guy in a horror novel, or the setting for a groundbreaking archeological discovery in a memoir.
The more genres you read, the more possibilities you’ll be aware of the next time you happen to walk past a pretty field of flowers and wonder what’s happened there in the past.
It Helps You Find Hidden Gems
There have been multiple times when I happened to pick up a book from a genre I don’t usually read and was surprised by how much I loved it.
Had I made a strict rule about never reading about X, I would have spent my whole life not knowing what I was missing.
For example, I read Robin Mather’s “The Feast Nearby: How I Lost My Job, Buried a Marriage, and Found My Way By Keeping Chickens, Foraging, Preserving, Bartering and Eating Locally (All on $40 a Week)” several years ago after a friend recommended it.
I am not the kind of person who is into farming, eating organic food, or raising livestock, but I still deeply enjoyed this author’s stories about all of the struggles she faced as she adapted to her new lifestyle. Some of her stories were seriously hilarious! I found myself rooting for her to find a happy ending even as I chuckled at the mistakes she made along the way.
It Gives Your Brain a Workout
I’ve been reading science fiction for so long now that I can usually predict where a storyline is going long before the characters have any clue what’s happening to them. There are certain plot devices that are used so regularly in this genre that it’s pretty easy to spot them once you’ve read a enough books that happen to include them.
The nice thing about dabbling in other genres is that you generally aren’t as familiar with the tropes or other plot devices that they use. When I first started reading mysteries, for example, I’d often overlook small but important clues in the first scene because I wasn’t used to needing to pay such close attention to little details like whether the butler was right or left-handed or what time of day the neighbour said she’d seen the suspect leaving the victim’s house.
I hope I’ve encouraged you to give another genre a try the next time you’re rummaging around at the bookstore or library and trying to figure out what to read next. There are so many amazing stories out there waiting to be discovered!