From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, March 11, 2013

What Gets You Reading Outside Your Genre?

I think we all have a nice set of adjectives we use to describe ourselves as readers: eclectic, voracious, avid. We can't help ourselves. I think most of us go from George Elliot to John Green to Jeffery Eugenides to Terry Pratchett without too much hesitation. Yes, we have our favorites that we go back to time and time again, and the genre where we're most comfortable, but I think most of us enjoy the occasional foray into other territory.

But today, when I say outside your genre, I'm talking really outside your genre.

My local library has two floors. Ground floor, we've got the adult fiction right up front, and science fiction and fantasy on the wall behind that. To the left is the wish-it-was-bigger young adult section. You walk through a door and there's a big room for the kids books. Then in the basement is all the non-fiction.

I've been in the basement maybe twice. Which is not much, especially considering how often I am at that library. Almost every time I leave I have something from adult, young adult, and kids, but I never go downstairs.

This is what I'm talking about. What would get readers like me to the downstairs books? I think I need to ponder this further before I have any good answers, which is why I'm asking you. And here's why I think it's important: for books to really break out, really get BIG, it needs to draw readers from every part of the book store. And it's fair to say we all want to reach as many readers as possible, right?

I think the last non-fiction book I read was Bird by Bird by Anne Lammot because 1) it was recommended by my trusty book recomenderer, and 2) it was directly applicable to me. Those are the best answers I've come up with so far for why fiction readers would delve into the non-fiction section. What others can you think of?

And I know there are plenty of those who generally only read non-fiction. Heck, I work at Barnes and Noble and that's an answer I've gotten from plenty of my co-workers when I ask about their favorite books. Only about half of the books on the staff recommendations shelf are novels. Like I said, I'm starting to come up with reasons for fiction readers to go to non-fiction, but what about vice versa? So for you non-fiction readers out there, what was the last novel you read and what made you pick it up?

I also know that there are plenty of people who only read mysteries or Pulitzer winners or books written in the 1800's (I wouldn't blame you). That's totally cool to read this way, but what makes you pick up the rare book outside your main category?

Leave your thoughts in the comments! Let me know the last "outside" book you read, and why you read it. I'm anxious to get some more ideas about this :)

Sarah Allen


  1. I'm an avid reader and writer of nonfiction. But I do read a novel once every 4-5 books. I like novels, just not as much as nonfiction. The last one I read was Barbara Kingsolver's "Flight Behavior" and before that "The Round House". But now I'm back to nonfiction, "My Detachment" by Tracy Kidder (amazing writer). I think, no matter the genre of writing you explore, it's good to keep learning and reading from all kinds of books.

  2. I usually love paranormal but the desire to read a new author or an Indie one has helped me out of my reading box.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. Hmmm. See, for me I read fiction and non-fiction pretty regularly. I definitely read more fiction more often, but I think part of that might have to do with the non-fiction books I choose to read, which tend to be the kind that I will take more time with than a fun novel that I can read in a day or two.

    Jo happens to like non-fiction a lot more than I do and so we will read those together. The first book we ever read together was "Cunt: A Declaration of Independence" by Inga Muscio and I would recommend that book to EVERYONE despite the hard-souding title, because it is absolutely brilliant.

    We've also read a few NF books by people who hiked the Appalachian Trail, and that inspired us to prepare for and hike the 2200 mile trail in 2015 (sometimes you've got to be careful about what non-fiction you pick up because it might change your life). Becoming Odyssa was an awesome book!

    A lot of non-fiction books that I enjoy could be deemed "self-help" books, I guess. I like to see what people have to say about certain things. Currently Jo and I are reading a book called "Permanent Partners" which is just a relationship type book that focuses more on the unique issues that arise in homosexual relationships. So far it's been really good. I've enjoyed reading it together because then we can talk about things in our own relationship as we go.

    I've never read a horror novel. I don't really like paranormal or romance. But, I did read a Nora Roberts novel because it was about fire. So, that one caught my attention with flames on the cover and a promise of a story about smoke jumpers. Despite it being a murder mystery/romance novel I read and actually enjoyed it. Also, I found that one in the audiobook section, and I think some books are easier to listen to than they are to sit down and read. So, I think it takes browsing in different sections even if you're not looking to take anything from it--usually something will catch your eye. But I'm still not sure how to convince myself to try horror...or Robert Jordan/series style fantasy.

    Tif @

  4. I will pick up any book of any genre. If the writing is strong and the plot leads me along, then I will read it.

  5. I'm a fiction fan. Most of the non-fiction I read are writing books and the occasional biography.

  6. My reading is broken down to two categories: reading for fun and reading for contractual obligation/helping a fellow writer.

    I read all kinds of non-fiction for fun. It has always been my favorite genre to read.

    I experiment with all the other genres when I have to fulfill contractual obligations/helping a fellow writer. In other words, book reviews.

    Doing book reviews has me exploring genres that up until last year, wouldn't even give the time of day to. Genres such as romance, YA, westerns and even erotica has crossed my e-reader and gotten reviewes by me.

    I rarely read fiction for fun nowadays, so this is the only way I can get good exposure to fiction.

  7. I consider myself pretty omnivorous, rarely does a genre turn me off. That said, I read very little of paranormal and erotica-- and would not consider reading them unless the writing is very, very good.


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