Our Reading Lives

It’s Okay To Be An Adventurous Reader

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Jamie Canaves

Contributing Editor

Jamie Canavés is the Tailored Book Recommendations coordinator and Unusual Suspects mystery newsletter writer–in case you’re wondering what you do with a Liberal Arts degree. She’s never met a beach she didn’t like, always says yes to dessert, loves ‘80s nostalgia, all forms of entertainment, and can hold a conversation using only gifs. You can definitely talk books with her on Litsy and Goodreads. Depending on social media’s stability maybe also Twitter and Bluesky.

I see/hear a lot of reading opinions every day, and have for years now, and a thing that stands out to me a lot is readers who only want the box of things they’ve decided they like and to never try outside of that. Are they hurting anyone? Nope. Is it my business? Nope. Is that going to stop me from giving advice for being a more adventurous reader? Of course not. Here are the things I hear the most about not wanting to expand outside of one’s set reading box and some, hopefully, helpful tips if you do ever want to try something  new.

I Don’t Want To Waste My Money On Something I’ll Hate

Ophie's Ghost cover

Libraries are an unbelievable resource for many reasons and many properly funded libraries carry physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks. And if they use Hoopla you don’t have to wait for an ebook or audiobook listed in their catalog, you can just read it immediately. Zero money spent. Ebook sales are another great way to acquire a book and although not zero dollars spent, it may help reduce your trepidation to try something for $1.99. And if you’re ever not sure about a book, you can read a sample for most. Maybe you refuse to try middle grade books because you’re a grown adult and children’s things are only for children (you can pry my unicorn toys from my cold dead hands, thank you very much) but a category like children’s books is so incredibly vast; why not read an opening sample of a book and see if it is more than what you think? You can read the prologue for Justina Ireland’s Ophie’s Ghost on the publisher’s page (below the cover image). And you should, as it’s one of the best prologues I’ve read in any age, including adult novels.

I Don’t Care About The Money, I Don’t Want To Waste My Time

I’m certain if you look at your list of pre-approved, already-know-I’ll-love-this reads, there will be duds in there. And by duds I just mean a book that you didn’t love or maybe even like that much. It happens and it is going to keep happening. This is where I propose we stop treating books as precious. Every book you read doesn’t have to be amazing and the best book you’ve read. Do you expect this from every meal you eat? We definitely put different expectations on books for what we “need” them to do and I propose maybe we just let books be books. Before you yell at me, via your screen which did nothing to you, I absolutely love books and have my entire life. I love reading for so many reasons: from the escape to the ability to live lives and in worlds that I will never get to. But they are just an object that offers this and while many times it delivers, it sometimes does not. Sometimes I’m just entertained in the moment I’m reading and then promptly forget it once I’m finished and that is okay. Every book doesn’t have to be precious. Releasing oneself from this notion really frees up a lot of space for just enjoying a thing for what it is, which can be different every time.

You Can Absolutely Love A Thing That Has A Thing You Don’t Like

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall cover

You may surprise yourself and find that you can like a thing that you don’t like. What?! I for one am not a fan of love triangles. It was in a lot of my entertainment growing up and I just always disliked those storylines (waves at 90210 the OG because I’m an old). However, because I try to pick up books knowing as little as possible about them, I recently ended up reading Alexis Hall’s Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake not knowing it has a love triangle in it. Here’s the thing, it is now one of my all time favorite romance novels. Had I heard about the love triangle prior and said “hmmm I’ll skip this because I don’t like love triangles,” I would have ended up missing out on this hilarious romcom and missed out on gifting it to others and getting to hear how much they loved it, too.

You Can Dip A Toe In Rather Than Cannonball In

The Majesties cover image

If you don’t think you’ll like fantasy, then grabbing a blockbuster like Lord of the Rings or your friend’s favorite read from the genre they read the most in will probably just further make you believe it is not a genre for you. And that’s the thing with genres: they are these gigantic umbrellas with so much beneath them that no one book speaks for the whole thing. It’s best to build a bridge between what you love and what you’re attempting to try. Look for a book that is what you love with a sprinkling of that genre you’re wanting to try, or a genre blend. Let’s say you only like literary fiction/contemporary and think the crime genre is brain candy (mmm brain candy) and gory. You may find yourself enjoying The Majesties by Tiffany Tsao (which I think suffered from being labeled a thriller and thriller genre readers expected something else) or The Other Americans by Laila Lalami. There are plenty of novels that merge the two genres, but also there are many crime novels that are character-driven and there is a huge range from not graphic to graphic.

Same goes for reading challenges. Maybe you looked at the 2021 Read Harder challenge and saw 24 tasks for 12 months and it was so much of too much that you quickly ran away to the safety of what you know. Dip a toe in. Book Riot has been doing the Read Harder challenges for years now, so just scroll through the challenges and book suggestions, and pick just one. That’s it. You may end up liking the book. You may end up not liking the book. Either way you had an experience and learned something, so I still count it as a win.

Buddy Read

I’ve done buddy reads and a buddy watching and very much recommend them both if you can. A great way to try a new genre, or trope, or just a book you’re hesitant on is to find someone to read it with you. Even if you don’t like the book, it’s fun to talk about it with someone else and it feels validating to get to have a conversation about your feelings. Plus, random texts from your buddy about the book is a bonus. I do recommend that you remove any “homework” feeling from this and you each read at your own pace.

One of the best things that ever happened to my reading life was coming to write for Book Riot. At the time — in 2015, which feels lifetimes ago! — I thought I was a wide reader, but I quickly realized how much more there was to explore. Listening to Rioters’ excitement about a book on our Slack channels, learning that I had misconceptions about some genres and tropes, and realizing the true scope of everything out there made me want to read beyond what I’d limited myself to without even realizing I’d done so. It’s why I started reading books without knowing anything about them. It didn’t allow me to start with a judgement, and I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read, loved, and sometimes disliked, that I would have completely missed if not. So read what you like, or don’t, however you want: it is your reading life. Just know that nothing bad will come from exploring, but the potential for so many new amazing experiences does await.