I used to be a book snob.
I got my degree in English, but really it was a degree in Reading Important British Literature. I loved Shakespeare, Chaucer, heck, I even loved Milton. If asked, I would gleefully tell you that my favorite author was George Eliot. Not for Middlemarch, of course. That would be too obvious. No, it was for Mill on the Floss. I’d painfully explain that it needs to be read slowly with careful attention to her dense prose. :(((
I still love Eliot, though you probably won’t find me reading her any time soon.
My emphasis on literary works was hell on my writing. I hated everything I wrote and yearned to write something more fun and imaginative. I just couldn’t see genre writing as a real profession. In early 2013, I decided to buckle down and finish a manuscript. Before I started, I wanted to branch out in an effort to see what makes best-selling books so great. I began with the biggest, most important work I could think of. It may not seem current to you, but considering I was stuck on Chaucer, it might as well have come out yesterday. Brace yourself.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling– Look, I don’t know what to tell you. I just wasn’t interested. It came out when I was in high school and I was too busy reading Lolita and Lady Chatterley’s Lover for it to register. I tried to read it once when my *older* brother said it was good, but I couldn’t stand it after 10 pages. I never even saw the movies. In 2013, I downloaded the audiobooks and to my great surprise (but probably not yours), I was hooked. I finished the entire series in 3 weeks and was useless to my family throughout. I vividly remember throwing a washcloth I was folding into the air when Neville (8 YEAR OLD SPOILER) pulled out that sword. “FUCK YES NEVILLE!” (He’s my absolute fave and I am accepting all links to Neville fanfic, thank you).
This realization opened a whole new world for me. I remembered reading far more widely as a child: William Sleator, Babysitter’s Club, Agatha Christie, Tamora Pierce, COMIC BOOKS. I don’t know when I decided that I wouldn’t enjoy different genres and could only read serious literary works. I wanted to go back to that child who read anything and everything that sparked her interest. It takes a special author to draw me into a new genre, though. I wanted to share a few that have changed my mind recently.
Soulless by Gail Carriger– I can’t say I didn’t like steampunk, vampires, or werewolves because I can’t remember ever reading any. I had zero interest in any of those topics. Diving into this book was a massive stretch for me and I can’t even remember why I did it. I just saw it at my library and gave it a try. I am so glad I did. I *sparkle heart* LOVED this book. I literally LOLed several times and developed deep book-boyfriend feelings for Lord Maccon that have repercussions to this day. I must say, this was another audiobook for me and the medium always affects my feelings about a work. I would never have finished Harry Potter if it wasn’t an audiobook. A good narrator can keep you interested long enough for you to buy in and get to the good stuff when you’re trying something new.
I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella– Another audiobook for me because I hate washing dishes in silence. After reading Soulless, I thought I might be ready to try something I have always sneered at: fiction for ladies. Before you haul out the pitchforks, understand that I was burdened by the patriarchy’s bias against chick lit and romance and have since freed myself! I devoured every Kinsella book I could find and enjoyed them so much that I felt inspired to start writing more romantic stuff. My first attempt at a romantic short story ended up being my first published piece. :)))
9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean– This was the biggest leap for me. I’ve been resisting full-on historical romance like it was a full-time job. I mean, this is the genre that is mocked the most, right? Fabio half-naked on the cover with some distressed damsel forever fainting from the weight of his sex. Sarah MacLean has been recommended up and down my Twitter timeline for years and I just staunchly refused. I am so, so stupid. If you need me, I will be mainlining MacLean novels for the next month.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples– !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just read this. If you’ve already read it, read it again. I know you want to anyway. This book got me back into comic books and I’ve since added Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe to my list as well. I get these almost exclusively as gifts due to some, ahem, cash-flow issues.
I have run into a bit of a problem, though. Despite my desire to read fiction by more diverse authors in all genres, I have trouble finding the newer books I want to read at my local library and I’m unable to justify buying books on my current (essentially non-existent) budget. I always send in a library request and have been successful a few times, but for the most part I’ve been left empty-handed. This saddens and angers me for many reasons, but I’m hoping the heavy press for diverse books will turn the tide soon.
So, now I’m up for anything! Send me your best book recs for maligned genres! Bonus points if they’re typically available at the library. 😉