I’m four books into my reading challenge, and I’ve already begun to realize how exciting it is to see that I’m not just sticking to one genre in particular. So far I’ve read: A children’s collection of Arthurian mythology, a historical fiction novel, a realistic fiction novel, and a young adult fantasy novel. So far so good! But it made me begin to question something I think is very important to consider: how do we deal with reading comfort zones?
I’ve never felt like I was someone who had a really small comfort zone when it came to reading. I tend to just pick books up I like. I was usually the total opposite of my brother, who had to have books that fit certain criteria to even be considered for reading. Me, it was looking at a cover and a title and a description and digging in.
But the thing is I’ve had the dilemma before of bringing home books I felt like I was supposed to read instead of books I really wanted to read. As an English major I always felt embarrassed that I hadn’t read Huck Finn or some of the works of Jane Austen. I told one friend over breakfast yesterday that I was a bit saddened that I hadn’t really read any French classics as a French minor and English major. But the truth is every one of those I’ve brought home I’ve read a few pages of and put aside.
It reminds me a lot of my brother. My parents would try to encourage him to read things and he’d bring home books that didn’t really interest him and try to read them and fail. Only certain books even remotely inspired him to read.
I suppose the question comes at wondering, should we expand our comfort zones for reading? Or should we focus on simply reading what we love? Is it better to force yourself through one book that you probably should read, or that might be good to expand what you’re used to, or is it better to read a few books in your normal comfort zone, even if they’re not “high quality literature”?
One of my professors in college always told us that we should read whatever we wanted. That reading Harry Potter or paperback mysteries or silly romance novels didn’t make us bad English majors. He suggested that the main thing was to continue to read.
So I guess I’d say it’s just a matter of balance. I’d say a majority of the time you should read in your comfort zone. Read books you’ll actually want to read and actually finish. But occasionally, maybe set that mystery novel aside and try some historical fiction, or put your sci-fi down and pick up a romance, or maybe try that classic you never managed to actually read in school, or a memoir or nonfiction work that someone recommends to you. And work on expanding your reading sphere a little bit, or at least dipping your toes out of that protective circle.
My next book for my reading challenge is nonfiction. Yes, me the queen of fiction is going to attempt to read something without a plot or characters or anything really interesting (kidding). We will see how it goes. Just a good chance for me to practice what I preach.
What genres do you have trouble reading? What’s your approach to challenging yourself? Do you tend to stick to one genre or hop around? Why do you like what you normally read? Any and all discussion is great!