Sunday, February 08, 2015

Reading across the Genres

Over the past few days I finished a graphic crime novel set against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. At the same time I was reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, originally published in Russian as an indictment of the Stalinist era. Meanwhile, I was into a historical novel about the crusades, which turned out, somewhat to my surprise, to be basically porno. After finishing the “Ivan” book, I started a philosophical treatise from Kierkegaard on The Present Age, and a textbook on evolution. The New Orleans graphic novel transitioned into a weird western featuring Jonah Hex. Throw in two novellas, a sword & sorcery piece and a southern noir. Before that, a collection of short stories about the Jim Crow era, a nonfiction documentary piece on Hair Metal, a video game tie in called Metal Gear, some space opera, a collection of Poeesque horror stories, a big book of science fiction flash fictions, and a post-apocalyptic western by Edward Abbey. I wonder what is next.

Do you tend to read across many genres, or focus on one or two? If you do read across genres, do you jump about willy-nilly? Or do you tend to do a few books in one genre before switching to another? Just wondering.


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32 comments:

Cloudia said...

Charles, if you can keep all that straight, dementia doesn't stand a chance!


ALOHA from Honolulu
ComfortSpiral
<3

Angie said...

I read whatever catches my fancy, whenever I feel like reading it. I really don't organize my reading time for genre, or even fiction/nonfiction, and it never occurred to me that I should. I know there are folks who only read one kind of book -- hard core SF fans or romance fans or mystery fans who read nothing else -- but I guess I just always assumed that people who read multiple genres, and maybe also read nonfiction, just read whatever they felt like reading.

Yet another illustration about how, if you don't think about something, it's easy to just assume that other people are like you. [ponder]

Angie

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, barring romance, I read in every genre and I do "jump about willy-nilly." I get bored reading in just one or two genres. I like variety in books as well as in films.

Ty said...

Charles, you've probably seen enough of my reading habits over at my blog to notice I jump around a fair bit. I might read 3 or 4 books of one genre, but then I tend to switch to something else. But I also tend to run into sort of long stretches (years) in which I'll stray away from a genre or I'll read more of a genre than is my norm. Just kind of depends upon my mood at any given time.

sage said...

Yes, I do tend to read across genres and more than one book at a time... What Abbey book did you read? I've read most of his and am not sure about which one you read.

G. B. Miller said...

I've been experimenting a lot with my reading, so I do have a tendency to jump across genres from time to time.

I use non-fiction as my home base for jumping off, and more often than not, it's been pretty good.

Father Nature's Corner

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is quite the variety, Charles.
Right now I'm trying to catch up on blogger buddy books, so I am reading multiple genres.

Brian Miller said...

i do...i just finished a YA romance series...and while it was not the best written, i really like how the author played out the story...and its funny, someone laughed at me and said it was a sappy story, but it all plays together in my own writing...now i am reading a sci fi/fantasy by brandon anderson...and will read a non fiction book next....

jonah hex...nice

R.T. said...

Charles, I have tried to vary my reading interests over the years; my past passions have included horror (e.g., Stephen King, Peter Straub, and H. P. Lovecraft), crime-detective-mystery fiction, canonical literature (e.g., all those things I was supposed to read in my B.A./M.A. courses), narrative history (e.g., David McCullough's books), and a smattering of S/F.

Most recently I have been "accused" of being an "intensive" rather than "expansive" reader because of my more limited focus (e.g., Flannery O'Connor and other "writers of faith").

Now, if I were to categorize myself, I suppose I remain a reader of anything that is well-written and worth my limited reading time.

I have recently been flirting with the idea of reading westerns, but I have not taken the plunge.

I guess I am something of a hummingbird as a reader. I fly from one thing to another in search of nourishment.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I read across fictional genres, but seldom anything novel length non-fiction. I have been a history buff for decades since college, and have so many historical web pages bookmarked, they're falling out of the bottom of my browser. :) When I read a novel though, it is fictional, and can be romance, science fiction, military, espionage, paranormal, etc. - but it must be fiction.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, at least for a while I can.

Angie, I know quite a few readers who seem to be fairly narrow in their selections. But I wasn't sure about the bloggers. I had a feeling many of them would be eclectic.

Prashant, I don't read romance either much, although I have, and not a lot of straight mystery.

Ty, when I'm writing I will often read three or four books in a row from the same genre, like westerns.

Sage, the Abbey book was "Good News." I reviewed it on Goodreads if you are in that group.

G.B., I tend to read nonfiction at work and fiction at home, but lately have been mixing that up. Getting wild and crazy I guess. :)

Alex, that sends you into varied territory for sure

Bernard, I always have to be reading fiction but can go a while between nonfiction works. I probably do about 1 to 3 ratio of nonfic to fiction

R.T. said...

I am probably the only person on the face of the earth who does not know very much about Goodreads. Perhaps I need to investigate it.

If anyone wants to give me a crash course -- 50 words or less -- I'm listing.

Angie said...

RT -- Goodreads is essentially a database listing almost every book with an ISBN and a bunch without. Title/author/cover/summary/publisher and usually things like year of publication and such.

You create an account, then when you read a book, you find it in the database (good search engine, and it differentiates between different editions of the same book) and mark it as "read". you can also create other "shelves" on your account, so you might put a book on shelves labelled "SF" and "aliens" and "mystery" and "FTL" and "humor," just as an example. You can give the book a rating, or not, however you like. You can write a review that others can see, or you can write notes that only you can see. As a writer who doesn't need to invite drama, I write notes for myself only, unless I'm reviewing nonfiction, which I don't expect I'll ever write.

You can friend people, and get a feed with their ratings/reviews on them. If you find someone's reviews aren't very useful to you, you can stop getting them. I find a lot of books to put on my "to buy" shelf through other people's reviews.

There are also groups you can join, if you have lots of free time. :) Seriously, though, reading challenges can be fun, and if you're reading anyway, joining a challenge won't really take up much extra time. But it gives you a bunch of people to discuss the books you've read with, however much or little you want, and it's a good way of making friends, and finding people who give good recommendations and therefore whose reviews you might want to follow.

If you're a writer, your books are probably already there on the site. You can set up an author page, make sure that all your books are actually listed under your name, and that all the books under your name are actually yours. I had to get that straightened out when I set up my SFF writer page recently; a lady who wrote a book about the Ethiopian Famine has that same name, and one of my books was listed under her page and one of hers under mine. The librarians who work on the site are happy to help, and got it straightened out promptly.

It's a site that you can spend a lot of time on, or a little. Or you can hang out a lot for a week or a month or three months, then wander away for a year, as your schedule dictates. I've found it fun as a reader and useful as a writer.

Angie

Angie said...

Um, sorry, just saw the "50 words or less" part, LOL!

Angie, hiding under her keyboard

R.T. said...

Angie, thanks for the generous response to my naïve question. And I will not lower the grade because of a failure to follow the 50-word assignment limitation; instead, I will give you an "A" for great and generous quality. Thanks a million. Now I think I will explore Goodreads.

Richard said...

Better than 90% of my reading is mystery or SF-F. I did just finish reading an autobiography, but I only catch one or two of those a year. I try to balance the genres, alternating, or at least a couple of one and then the other, with short story collections going in between. I usually read one novel at a time, but the short story collections I rotate through, five or six going at one for variety.

Oscar said...

I read another genre besides western when the urge strikes me and I'm interested in the subject.
What did you think of the Kierkegaard book?

Barbara Martin said...

Many genres interest me other than the sci-fi fantasy that I read most often. But, of late, I've strayed into historical fiction and non-fiction on a variety of issues.

Riot Kitty said...

I like all sorts of things - everything from serious (as opposed to fluffy) mysteries to political biographies- and tend to go on a binge when I find a new author I like.

Charles Gramlich said...

R.T., what Angie said about Goodreads. I also enjoy it. I do review my fiction reads but I don't always publically review books by authors I know because of the potential drama.

Angie, thankee.

Richard, yeah, I actually have a number of short story collections in various stages of completion. I may read only a story once in a while in them.

Oscar, I'm still working on that one. I'm reading it mostly at school, which means it'll take me a while to get it done.

Barbara, I do like historical fiction and am reading some now.

Riot Kitty, you know, political biographies and politically related work in general is a place where I seldom read.

SzélsőFa said...

I too, tend to read whatever I feel will suit my mood of the moment.
At times I am patient to read through my way in something serious, say, a historical novel, while at other times I crave action and/or young adult.
At peculiar times I even wander to read sci~fi as well, but those are the rarest moments in my life.
Recently I have read The Life of Pi (by Yann Martell); an autobiography of a Hungarian painter; and right now I'm into a historical book (written in the turn of the XX. century) about the martyrs of the great war of 1846/49.

SzélsőFa said...

(Sorry for the type, the date of the Revolution is 1848/49).

Charles Gramlich said...

Szelsofa, I feel like reading more history. I need to get back into that. Been too long.

sage said...

I did read Abbey's "Good News." I'd forgotten about it but when I read the title, I remembered (I date my books and this one was read in 1991)!

Ron Scheer said...

Per usual I'm a bit late wirh a comment here. As you know already, I tend to stick with westerns and frontier fiction, looking for books ro review on my blog. Sometimes it feels like I'm maybe stuck in a rut. Lately I read and reviewed a book about jazz, partly because an old friend and colleague recommended it.

Erik Donald France said...

Yes, it's a stimulating series of cross-checks, and surprising connections pop up occasionally . . . Eclectic is good, if a bit hectic at times . . .

Keeps the mind supple, eh?

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage. I haven't read a lot of Abbey's work. Desert solitaire was wonderful.

Ron, over the past three years I've been reading a lot of nonfiction evolutionary science for a book that I'm working on.

Erik, one hopes it does at least.

Carole said...

I read mostly thrillers, the Bible, memoirs,fantasy, and some literary fiction. Oh and children's books, but that is just because the grands nag me into reading with them. My mind could not ever keep up with what you read.

Vesper said...

Charles, the first paragraph reads like one of your weird dreams... :-)
I always read several books at the same time, different genres.

Charles Gramlich said...

Carole, I'm not always sure my mind keeps up. ;)

Vesper, I do like having at least 2 or 3 different books going.

jodi said...

Charles-I jump around a bit, but love biographies the most!

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I used to read a lot more biographies. Not so much these days.