We all have our comfort reads. Some people like their armchair mysteries, or their historical fiction time travel romances. Some people insist that they only read "literary" fiction, which generally means that the story is about an unhappy middle aged English professor of some kind. I, for one, will read just about anything with a map on the inside cover or anything that involves a robot learning how to love. And there's nothing wrong with having a favorite genre, just like there's nothing wrong with having a favorite food or a favorite color. But if you're eating pork buns for every meal while dressed from head to toe in fuchsia... then it's time to maybe try something new. Here are a few reasons why you should try reading a new genre of book.
I mean, sure, if you like light-hearted show biz memoirs, you don't necessarily have to go straight from Tina Fey's Bossypants to Frank Herbert's Dune. I'm not saying that you have to muscle your way through The Scarlet Letter and pretend to like it. But if you take even the tiniest step outside of your comfort zone, you might find that you can like more than one genre at once. Here's why you should embark on a new reading adventure:
You’ll be smarter
It's no secret that reading makes you smarter (and more empathetic, and probably handsomer). But, as much as I love to re-read my favorite books until they fall apart in my hands, reading the same story over and over again probably isn't going to vastly expand your intelligence. Pick up a work of historical nonfiction, or a graphic novel memoir, or a political satire, and give your brain some new material to chew on.
You’ll be less judgmental
Be honest: in your secret judgmental heart, there's at least one genre that you think is just a little bit... stupid. Or pretentious. Or pointless, or overdone, or boring, or too sad/scary/difficult. Well, pick up a book from that genre and see if you can't fight that judgment with some good old fashioned reading. Or, if you're worried that you are too stupid/smart/old/young to read a certain genre, stop judging yourself and give it a try.
You’ll have a broader worldview
Reading is the cheapest way to travel. Reading a book can take you to other countries, times, and dimensions. Reading forces you to actually think about other people and imagine yourself in their shoes. Picking up a new genre means you're giving yourself thousands of brand new worlds to explore.
You’ll understand your favorite genre better
Books aren't terribly good at staying in one genre. Fantasy books borrow from political thrillers, horror stories steal from fairy tales, autobiographies occasionally veer into fiction. Read widely, and you might get more of the references in your own favorite books. Plus, you'll start to notice the ways in which genres differ and (more likely) the ways in which they blend.
You’ll discover new favorites
Don't judge a book by its cover (or its genre, or its film adaptation). You might discover that a new genre is actually your new favorite. Just because a book has vampires in it (or no vampires, depending on your taste), it doesn't mean that it can't resonate with you on a personal level. And who doesn't want more favorite books to obsessively re-read?
You’ll get out of that rut you’re in
We all get stuck in a reading rut every once in a while. I once read about four Vonneguts in a row and then spent a week feeling crushing despair over the human condition. Your mind needs a varied diet of books to stay sharp.
Everyone will suddenly like you
OK, maybe not EVERYBODY. But that one friend who's been bugging you to read Game of Thrones for months will definitely appreciate your new-found love of the high fantasy genre.
You’ll realize that “genre” is kind of meaningless
Seriously. "Genre" can be a pretty meaningless social construct (it's no mistake that "genre" and "gender" come from the same root word). Most books can easily fall under two or three genres, and a book's official genre is really just one person's opinion of what the book is about. So don't let your dislike of one YA vampire romance ruin every YA vampire romance for you.
Your own writing will improve
Whether you're writing the next great American novel or agonizing over an email to your boss, reading a new genre will give you some new vocabulary words. You might also find that reading graphic novels helps your visual storytelling abilities, or that YA comedies help you talk to your cool younger cousin, or that romance novels seriously up your text flirting skills.
You’ll be inspired to try new things
OK, so maybe you're not going to try to "do" Cheryl Strayed's Wild and go live in the woods until you have a cathartic experience. But you are going to find yourself tempted to try new things. Maybe that Gothic romance makes you want to walk out on the windswept moors. Or that comedian's memoir inspires you to try comedy. Or maybe that slice of life "literary fiction" novel makes you want to write your own slice of life "literary fiction" novels. Embrace life outside of your comfort zone. Read a new genre.
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