By Maggie James
Last week, I realised how deep a rut I've slipped into with my fiction reading. I've immersed myself in Lee Child, Stephen King, Gillian Flynn and other thriller, action and suspense writers, to the expense of pretty much everything else.
Then someone recommended 'The Second Diary' by Ciara Threadgoode to me. It ranks pretty highly in the humorous fiction category, thus being a book that's as different as you're going to get from King's 'The Shining' or Flynn's 'Gone Girl'. And you know what? I really enjoyed it. Such a refreshing change to Lee Child's offerings, much as I love his books. I reckon his character Jack Reacher would probably meet his match in Granny Dorothy Hughes from 'The Second Diary'!
'The Second Diary' is an engaging look at family issues through the eyes of Granny Hughes and her grand-daughter Cherise. The humour is delivered alongside copious dollops of common sense from Granny's musings on life. The book also touches on deeper topics, such as patronising attitudes towards the elderly. If you enjoy humorous fiction, I recommend giving it a go.
Preferences are good, ruts not so much
The thing is, 'The Second Diary' made me think. I've read plenty of humorous fiction in the past - Tom Sharpe, P.G. Wodehouse, amongst others, and enjoyed everything I've tried. So why did I stop? Why haven't I read anything in this genre for decades? OK, so our tastes change as we go through life, but the truth is I've become very narrow with my reading.
I suspect I'm not alone in this. People read a book in a particular genre, enjoy it, so want to read more of the same. And more, and more... Then they get bored, pick something from a different category, and the pattern begins again. A sort of serial monogamy for book genres, if you like.
We all have preferences, of course. Thrillers? Love them. Contemporary fiction? Great. Other stuff, not so much. I've never ventured much into the romance, fantasy, and historical genres, for example. Vampire novels? I've yet to read any of these, apart from 'Dracula'. (Vampire fiction seems to excite strong feelings, with some people arming themselves with silver bullets against anything of that ilk!) No, there's nothing wrong with preferences, except when they deepen into reading ruts.
Going back many years, I used to devour the classics. I've read all of Thomas Hardy's prodigious outpourings, plenty of Charles Dickens, as well as Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, George Gissing, etc. Modern classics, too, such as the works of George Orwell. And there's lots more I want to read; Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Proust and Nabokov, to name but a few. Yet it's been a long time since I read any classic fiction. And that's a shame.
Time for a change
For me, reading 'The Second Diary' has been a catalyst for change, and I'm starting by picking a few of the classics I've yet to read. To prevent me getting stuck in another reading rut, I'll be adding some science fiction to the mix. Intergalactic travel meets John Steinbeck - that's about as different as it gets! I've wanted for a long time to read more sci-fi, having loved the Mars and Venus books of Edgar Rice Burroughs when a child. Since then I've tried the genre again once or twice, but haven't been able to find anything that appealed. Too many long technical descriptions of intergalactic starships clogging up the action! To choose something that suits, I'll ask for recommendations from my friends on Goodreads, the go-to site for anyone who loves books. Unless any of you can recommend some great science fiction novels?
And romance novels? They're on the cards too, much to my surprise. That's because a novelist friend writes in the genre and wants me to review his books. Fantasy is beckoning as well; I've dipped my toes into the water already, with Brandon Sanderson's 'The Way of Kings'. Not a bad way to start!
What about you?
Do you tend to read in only a few genres? Are there any categories you never touch? Are you looking to broaden your reading and if so, into which areas?
Leave a comment and let me know! Meanwhile, I have a date with John Steinbeck...!
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