Reading Comfort Zones

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.

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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”?

Try stepping out of your comfort zone.

Try stepping out of your reading comfort zone. There are so many other books to be explored!

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!

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11 Comments

Filed under Reading

11 responses to “Reading Comfort Zones

  1. I love your ideas! I’ve had a similar experience as a classical music major. It’s easy to feel guilty for liking the easy, “crowd-pleasing” classical music.

    Also, I received an email (since I’m subscribed) about this post, but the message had no content. It said the message couldn’t be displayed because of formatting. I don’t know if something’s wrong with your settings or not, but I just thought I’d let you know!

    • Not to mention liking pop music…

    • Hmm I’m so sorry. I checked my email where I subscribed (in case something like this should happen) but I had no problem with mine. Not sure why that is, but thanks for letting me know anyways. And yes that’s a very good point on music too! I’ve definitely felt that way about classical music before too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Very interesting post. I will pick up and read anything that looks interesting no matter what genre it is. Do I get stuck in a genre from time to time? Yes and no. I’ve been reading a LOT of WWII stuff, but I’ve managed to sandwich other things in between. Even an old favorite now and then. My bigger problem is giving myself permission to NOT finish a book if it hasn’t captured me by the first 100 pages or so. I have a tendency to set up a reading schedule of something like ten pages a day till I get through it while I go on to something else. But I decided a long time ago the choice always had to be mine. Friends can “suggest” books to me that they liked, but I no longer feel like I ought to read something just because so and so loved it. THAT was a huge step for me.

  3. I agree, it’s really easy to get stuck in a particular genre, especially if it’s your focus genre as a writer. I read mostly fantasy, but I also like other genres (historical fiction, science fiction, contemporary, memoir) and try to fit those in whenever I can. My favorite book of last year was Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, a literary historical novel set in Germany and France during WWII. (I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet, btw.) Regardless of genre, we can come away from a story with something eye-opening and valuable.

    As for what genres I have trouble reading… Horror is the only one I can think of. I get creeped out very easily by horror films, and it’s been the same with that genre of books so far. *cringes* At least I tried, though!

    • Awesome thoughts! Thank you so much for commenting. I think you’re the fourth or fifth person to recommend that book to me so I think I’m going to have to officially put it on my reading list now! And yes I’m so with you on the horror genre. I probably should try more, but I agree it usually isn’t my thing. Again, thanks for stopping by with your thoughts! Always love hearing what others think.

      • You’re welcome! I’ve been lurking here for a couple weeks (I think?), so it was finally time for me to say a formal “Hello.” ๐Ÿ™‚

        By the way, I love your blog’s name! I’m a tea drinker myself.

      • Aw thanks! Glad you finally said hello! What’s your favorite kind of tea?

      • I don’t know if I have one favorite. I tend to like oolongs the most… But I drink just about every kind of tea (black, oolong, green, white, herbal). How about you?

      • Blacks and herbals mostly. I do try to drink green sometimes too though because I know it’s pretty good for you, but I’m really not too fond of it overall. Thanks again for stopping by!

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