Every reader has their preferred genres. While there’s nothing wrong with having favorites, it can sometimes lead to a bit of rut in your reading life. Take me, for example. I can easily read five mystery books in a row, but a historical fiction novel is strictly once-in-blue-moon territory. That’s all well and good, but it can be nice to try something new once in a while (especially when those thrillers are starting to put me on edge).
So how exactly do you do shake up your book routine? It’s easier said than done, but there are a few ways you can try to expand your literary taste. It may be scary—I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage to throw myself headfirst into sci-fi—but it can also lead you to some great reads. Go ahead and break out of your reading comfort zone using one (or all!) of these seven tips.
Start a reading challenge
Looking to switch it up after reading a bunch of books in the same genre? There’s no better way to do so than to start a reading challenge. Challenges encourage readers to find more diverse authors, explore new genres, or try out a different kind of literature, like a comic or graphic novel. Plus, there’s a huge variety of challenges to choose from—Book Riot has its own and you can also find some DIY options here.
Visit an indie bookstore
Another way to push yourself to leave your reading comfort zone is to leave your physical comfort zone by venturing outside of the bookstore you normally frequent. If you typically only hit a local chain or shop for books online, try going to a local indie or specialized bookstore instead.
This did wonders for my reading life. After years of simply hitting up the closest Barnes & Nobles, I finally drove a little further out of my way to visit a local, smaller shop I’d heard about and instantly fell in love. Not only is the place full of charm, but the owners love chatting books—a serious bonus for someone who spends as much time in bookstores as I do.
Gather recommendations from your network
Who better to turn to for advice on spicing up your reading life than your fellow readers? It doesn’t matter whether it’s your friends, family, or a bookish online community. Other readers are a great source for recommendations and can introduce you to books (or authors) that you may never have heard of. Bonus points for seeking out bookworms who you know have wildly different tastes than you.
Diversify your bookshelf
Revamping your reading life can be as simple as seeking out a wider variety of authors. If most of your bookcase is comprised of works written by men, try reading more books written by women. Also check out novels penned by people of color, immigrants, authors of different sexual orientations, etc. Paying closer attention to the people behind the books will naturally end up leading you to a broader range of stories—and potentially a new favorite author.
Focus on one field of interest
Ever looked at your super long TBR list and felt overwhelmed? Yeah, me too. If you have too many options to choose from and don’t know what to pick up next, challenge yourself to zero in on one field of interest—for example, debut novels only or books written by authors from different countries. Doing so will not only help you choose from a lengthy list of must-reads, but could also lead you to an area of books you didn’t even know you enjoyed.
Talk to your local librarian
Some readers find it intimidating to seek help from librarians (I know because I used to be one of them). But trust me, the readers that love talking books the most are the ones that spend their days surrounded by them. It is—as one local librarian once told me—why they show up to work every day. And their expertise can be pretty invaluable. They can often pinpoint what features you like in a book (such as likable characters, intricate prose, etc.) so that you can hunt them down in other novels.
Judge a book by its cover
While it might go against everything you heard as a child, sometimes judging a book by its cover is OK. (Of course, I mean that literally, not metaphorically.) One of my favorite things to do at bookstores is pick up a book just because I like the cover. It’s not scientific, but it’s a simple, fun, and has actually led me to some great novels. Who knows? You may end up choosing something you may have never considered otherwise.