Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

  • Mood:
  • Music:


This is sort of a meme (well, in the pedantic sense, obviously it's a meme, but setting that aside). Lots of people have been talking about converting people to a new reading genre. The first example I saw was chez misia; she got over 300 comments but then she has a huge friends list. Other relevant bits: rho requests out-of-genre recs; shreena asks why people read SF/F. There's a relevant Making Light post too but it's from ages ago, and I have it bookmarked at work not here and I'm never going to find it in the archives by looking for 'book' or 'science fiction'!

So my take on it is this:
  • Do you have a preferred genre?
  • If so, why? What's good about it?
  • If you don't care for genre distinctions, why not?
  • If you wanted to convert someone who doesn't read your genre, which titles would you recommend?
  • Why did you make those choices?
Please assume for the purposes of these questions that mainstream counts as a genre. Otherwise there are going to be too many branching alternatives and it'll get annoying. Also, this is the kind of meme that makes sense as a post in your journal as much as a comment to this post; I'd love a comment with a link, but a long comment here is fine too.

I'm not much of a genre reader. I read anything that meets the basic criterion of well-written, and I'll read even bad books for the sheer pleasure of reading. Because I read primarily for character, I tend to go for mainstream, where there is nothing else to get in the way.

I also prefer, if I'm to express a preference, mainstream because a lot of genre (any genre) is self-referential. If you haven't read the major influential works, and if you don't know the conventions of the genre, you get a lot less out of it. I'm not saying that mainstream literature is without conventions, but they're conventions that are known to just about anybody who's ever done any reading.

I suppose if I have a preferred sub-genre within mainstream, it's the set of books that fall somewhere in between popular bestsellers and excessively pretentious stuff. I'm not sure if there's a word for semi-intellectual books; I know what I mean by it, they form a distinct group in my mind, but I don't know if they're classified as a group. I like something that challenges me and gives me something to think about, but I like books to have a story and not to be too much effort to read. Reading is something I do to relax, and if I want real intellectual stimulation I'll read scientific papers rather than overblown literary works.

Books I would recommend that seem to me to fall into this sub-genre: AS Byatt, either Possession or Babel Tower. The former I'd recommend to someone who reads romances or bestsellers, who wants to move towards something more high-brow, and the latter to an SF/F reader who wants to try mainstream.

Anne Michaels: Fugitive pieces. Particularly to a reader of poetry or very lush fantasy. It's really gorgeously written, but it's also a story about people and relationships and so on. It's a book I often give to people as a gift, the kind of people I want to give pretty things to more than the kind of people I want to have intense discussions about books with (some of them are the same people, mind you!)

E Annie Proulx: The shipping news. One of those books that's particularly strong on characterization, but the prose is really lovely without ever being florid, and the setting is realist but very unusual, not the kind of thing that's part of my everyday experience.

Zadie Smith: White Teeth. Gloriously readable, but also throws punches and has a hugely tangled and complex structure. In many ways I think Smith is the direct successor to Dickens. She rambles a bit, she does have a bit of a social message, she tends to go in for enormous casts and perhaps too many journalist-like observational sketches as a source of humour, but like Dickens she does all these things very well. I'd recommend it to people who mainly read magazines or popular non-fiction rather than novels.

Today is the 46th day, making 6 complete weeks and 4 days of the Omer.
Tags: books

  • Bar mitzvah

    Soon after I came to Stoke, there was a boy of 8 or 9 who got really really enthusiastic about Judaism. He dragged his not terribly religious father…

  • Coincide

    So this year chanukah started on Christmas Eve. It's quite common for chanukah to overlap with Christmas, given that they are 8 days and 12 days long…

  • Leo Baeck Early Jewish Mysticism course

    So the Progressive Rabbinical training college runs a bunch of short courses for lay people, which they call Lehrhaus modelled after the Jewish…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment