I’ve always been a little…I don’t like to call myself “picky” so I’m going to say “particular.” I know what I like, and I want to have what I like instead of what I don’t like.
In terms of reading, I always thought this served me well. I narrowed down the types of books that I enjoyed and I made a beeline to that section of the bookstore: fantasy, literary fiction, and some YA, especially YA fantasy.
I rolled my eyes when I encountered robots, aliens, man-made superbugs, shopaholics; anything that I saw as a hallmark of one of the genres I did not prefer.
Science fiction? Gross. Chick Lit? As if. Nonfiction? Snore.
My system was my fail-safe: it protected me from the risk of squandering my reading time on books that were unlikely to delight me.
My first inkling that I was doing something wrong came last year, when I decided to pick up Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and I’d heard around the Book Riot water cooler that it was good, so it seemed like a safe bet.
One of the first things you learn in Cinder is that this fairy tale’s heroine is a dystopian future-dwelling part-robot with a knack for repairing spaceships. It was several different things I should have hated rolled into one.
But here’s the thing: I loved it.
My romance renaissance was next. I’d been let down by romance novels: they were gross, always rape-ey, or disappointing. But then Mary Balogh showed me the way, and now I’m a romance superfan.
Then The Girl With all of the Gifts, followed by The Book of Strange New Things. They were different in that they were conscious choices: I knew they were science fiction, my least favorite genre, but they came so strongly recommended that I decided to read them anyway and they rocked my world.
That was when I knew for sure I’d been making a mistake.
I hadn’t been protecting myself at all, I’d been blinding myself to a whole world of bookish possibility.
I think I’ll always be more likely to choose a dragonrider over a spaceship captain, but I have no doubt that my genre prejudice has been shutting me out from the chance to discover some excellent reading material. The Book of Strange New Things is easily one of my favorites from the past few years, and it’s set on another planet, for Pete’s sake.
I’m grateful to this amazing bookish community for helping me to open my eyes: if it weren’t for your excellent recommendations, I would never have discovered that there are so many books I can love waiting for me in genres I thought I hated. I can’t wait to see what else is out there.