Monday, February 28, 2011

Are You A Genre-Ist?

All right ladies (and a few gentlemen), be straight with me here.

Have you ever looked at a book and said, "Oh, that's a [fantasy, thriller, contemporary, etc]. I hate those books" and promptly set the book back on the shelf? I know I have.

I confess. I do not like the following genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Mystery, and Thriller. If a book is labeled as one of these genres, I am far less likely to read it. Is that fair? Should a book be judged by its genre alone? Certainly not.

Case in point: Until 2000, I would not touch a fantasy novel with a ten foot pole. I had no interest in the Narnia books nor Lord of the Rings. Then came a little series called Harry Potter. I was working at Barnes & Noble one summer and everyone kept raving about a book featuring a young wizard. I borrowed a copy from the store (my favorite perk of being a B&N employee) and proceeded to fall in love with J.K. Rowling's world. I plowed through the Harry Potter books as soon as each one was released. I was then inspired to try C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. To my surprise, I enjoyed them (although I'm not a huge Tolkien fan). I was now willing to try fantasy. The next big break came when I read Twilight. No longer was I just willing to try fantasy. I craved it. Paranormal. High Fantasy. Urban Fantasy. In ten years, I went from reading no fantasy, to a little fantasy, to reading a majority of books with at least some fantasy element.

It's amazing how one or two books can open up an entirely new world.

Now back to Alison the hypocrite. As much as I know how important it is not to judge a book on genre alone, it is still hard for me not to do so.

Dystopia is a particularly strong example of my genre-ist tendencies. I dislike dystopia because it's depressing. I like feeling uplifted by a novel. I don't need everything to be hippity-hoppity-happy (I love a good cry), but I don't want to finish a book with the urge to lie in bed for a week with the pillow over my head. That's how I felt when I finished books like Fahrenheit 451; 1984; and The Handmaid's Tale. As with every bright line rule, there are exceptions, of course. The Giver by Lois Lowry ranks among my top five books of all time. I loved the Hunger Games trilogy. I just finished and enjoyed Wither by Lauren DeStefano. That being said, if you tell me that a book is dystopia, the chance that I will read it plummets.

Two Discussion Questions:

1. What genre(s) do you dislike?

2. What are some books that will turn me into a lover of (a) Dystopia; (b) Science Fiction (other than Ender's Game and The Host, both of which I loved); (c) Mystery/Thriller?


  1. I never liked chick-lit or horror too much. Most of the stuff I read is a mix of a lot of stuff, I tend to lean towards Dystopian and Contemporary. I like fantasy, but I'm not a huge fan. I only read because I write fantasy, but I'm not particularly impressed with a lot of the stories I come across in this genre.

    As for dystopian stories you may like I'd recommend Matched by Ally Condie. I've heard good things about Delirium by Lauren Oliver, but I haven't read it yet.

  2. I'm not particularly fond of sole romance novels. However, if you add the fantasy, paranormal, supernatural element to it, then yes, I will most likely read it. Without that, it's highly unlikely I'll read about Fabian the highlander claiming Fiona the lady as his woman. No thank you. Strict horror isn't really my thing either although I'm willing to see what might be out there. Case in point: The Monstrumologist, classified YA Horror.

    In the way of Mystery/Thrillers, if you like cats and dogs, you might enjoy the Mrs. Murphy mysteries by Rita Mae Brown. I'd been looking for a mystery series I could enjoy, and that was the series that really caught my interest. I've read and reviewed the first book, Wish You Were Here, and have purchased the second book, Rest in Pieces.

  3. I love this whole topic choice, because I was just thinking about it the other day. For me, I don't really have a favorite genre and so I read a mix of everything. Though to be honest, I'm not really one for horror and if I find out a book is really creepy/gross/bloody or scary I'm hesitant to read it. I bought Forest of Hands and Teeth more then a year ago and its still sitting on my shelf for that very reason.

    I read a wonderful Dystopion called Memento Nora recently, it comes out in April and I have a feeling its the kind of book that will turn more people onto the genre. Also I'm currently reading Delirium and I really love it so far. As for Sci-Fi, I haven't read Across the Universe, but I heard its amazing! I can't think of any YA mystery/thrillers of the top of my head that aren't mixed in with Dystopian.

    I definitely think it more fun when you don't limit yourself to one particular genre. If the premise grabs you and makes you want to read the book, why does it matter what genre it is anyway, your clearly already interested. Sometimes knowing less about a book can be more fun!

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  5. I'm enjoying the YA dystopian Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. It took me a while to get into the groove of the first book but I liked it. I really liked the second and am looking forward to the last book out later this year.

    I didn't care for The Handmaid's Tale either. I did like 1984 though. There's a fine line between "whoa, no way" and depressing and that line is at different places for different readers.

  6. Hmmm... I don't have a favorite genre because I go through phases (these can last a while). Sometimes I will devour mysteries/thrillers and other times I can't get enough of romance novels. Until recently, I hadn't picked up a romance novel for like two years.

    But I will say that I don't read much sci-fi, but mostly because I don't come across them or don't pick them because there covers or summaries don't draw me in.

  7. I tend to avoid contemporary and historical fiction. I'm not entirely sure why though because I've read quite a few good books of these genres... but it's almost like I forget that I previously enjoyed books of these genres and then continue to avoid them. Silly.

    Have you tried The Uglies series for a dystopian read? And how about The Agency series by Y.S. Lee for mystery?

  8. I love YA of course but Dystopian seems to be my favorite at the moment. The future is scary.

  9. I really don't like comtemporary novels, YA or otherwise. I may try contemporary romances once in a while but the books about girls being abused, molested, cutting, anorexia, I just cannot bring myself to read them. I really do read to escape the everyday and those books seem so heavy. I know most of you love these books but they are just not for me.

    As far as books to get you into dystopia, I loved the Hunger Games trilogy, liked Delirium a lot and am now reading Wither and it is really good!
    Truly Bookish

  10. The Host <3 mmm lately Across the Universe is very popular in YA/sci fi/dystopia, I thought it was okay-ish

  11. Bringing up my genre-ist-ism isn't something I like to talk about. But yes, the ugly truth is if the book is classified under a genre I don't care for, then I'm less likely to give it a chance. (I still haven't read the HP books).

    Though I have been trying to change my perspective on genres, it is quite taxing because books, for a variety of reasons, can be a hit or miss. Though I enjoy dystopian, I've always struggled with Sci-Fi, so when Across the Universe came out, I thought it would be a great way for me to explore the genre, but the book ended up being a DNF for me which only further turned me off from sci-fi.

    For Dystopia, have you tried, Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer? If not, I think you might enjoy it. The story is told in diary entries.

    Awesome post Alison. One that makes you think, which I love.

  12. I hesitate to say I don't like a genre. I had a similar experience with Harry Potter and since then, have been very open to any genre. I will say I haven't read many Westerns. But...recently I've read some good things about Lonesome Dove, so I'll probably try that some time. I also feel that I need to read EVERYTHING YA because I'm a teen librarian, and if some kid comes in and says he likes westerns, I need to be able to respond...

  13. I pride myself in being open-minded to all genres only IF it is suggested to me from a friend. I generally dislike dystopian, westerns, and romance novels. (with the same exceptions you mentioned: The Giver and The Hunger Games)
    I really liked this post and I'm sorry to say that I don't have any suggestions that haven't already been mentioned.

    Sunshine @

  14. I am not a huge fan of Steampunk. It should be an guarantee for me, since I love the Victorian era in particular, but I've failed to pick up a book in that genre that has truly captured my interest.

    Oh dystopia! It's a hit or miss game with all of it flooding the market - Delirium was okay, The Hunger Games captured my heart, you can't go wrong with The Giver. . . Memento Nora is a fascinating blend of the three genres if you ask me, and acts as an inverted dystopia. I've heard Tomorrow When the War Began is fantastic! I think Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder also might be a good one, as well.

  15. I really don't like historical novels. I admit I'm a little snobbish that I won't read these books, but I have read a couple books in that genre and haven't found any that I love yet.

    Also, I don't pick up contemporary books on my own. If it's recommended to me by a few people I might read it, and usually I like them. But I usually read books to escape from reality, I don't like books that shove real life situations in my face. I much prefer angels and vampires problems.

  16. I haven't really encountered a genre that I did like, except erotica and that's just because I know I don't like graphic sex in books. Other than that, I'm pretty open to any genre; although, I do tend to gravitate towards YA and fantasy.

    As far as books that may help you enjoy Dystopia, Science Fiction, and Mystery/Thriller, here are my suggestions, although I'm not sure if you've read these:
    1. The Hunger Games trilogy (Dystopia)
    2. Matched (Dystopia)
    3. Elantris (Dystopia)
    4. Fahrenheit 451 (Dystopia/Science Fiction)
    5. Jurassic Park (Science Fiction/Thriller)
    6. Dune (Science Fiction)
    7. And Then There Were None (Mystery/Thriller)
    8. A Stranger is Watching (Mystery)
    9. Most of Mary Higgins Clark's books

  17. I definitely try not to be like this. I grew up reading almost everything I could, so I really never grew any prejudices against books. I will admit, I don't really like sci-fi, but I have given it a try and some books I like. A pretty good science fiction book is Across the Universe by Beth Revis. It is more dystopian than science fiction. :) Hope you like it, if you give it a try.

  18. I did used to do this, any fantasy or horror, I would avoid, and then I got given a YA paranormal fantasy for my birthday (Dark Visions by LJ Smith), and i had to read one for a book day at work (Marked by P.c & Kristin Cast)they were both excellent and I was converted, it's now most of what i read.
    However I do tend to still avoid horror unless i know someone who has read it and confirm it is not too scary.

  19. I'm not a fan of westerns.
    I'm reading a fantasy novel that is really great
    Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. Another good sci/fi writer is Jack McDevitt.

  20. I'm also guilty of being a "genre-ist". I don't read Sci-Fi, don't think I ever will. I'm currently obsessed with Adult & YA Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy books. If you haven't dabbled in this genre yet, you must read Die for Me by Amy Plum (got it on Netgalley-release date is May 10)-this was the best YA Paranormal Romance I have read thus far! I also recommend the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs as well as Rachel Vincent's Shifters series - both are adult Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy. Happy Reading!

    Mandy @Embrace Your Oddities

  21. My Sci-fi Recommendation is generally the same: Lois McMaster Bujold! Adventurous, intelligent stories with winning characters get me every time.

    Of her main series all but one of the books were released for free on the CD that came with new copies of the latest book, and the CD was mirrored on the internet (I also have a real copy of the CD, and hard copies of all the books)

    Vorkosigan Saga

    Just click your chosen book, then your chosen format in the sidebar.

    Start with either Cordelia's Honor (darker tone on average, more sci-fi, more societal comment, female protagonist) or Young Miles (lighter tone on average, first one published, coming-of-age, more space opera style).

  22. Great question! I like the idea of fantasy but I find I like epic fantasy on TV or movies more than in books because I'm a very character driven reader and fantasy tends to be landscape (not always, but a lot of the epic stuff is). I also am turned off by anything that says it's horror-can't do scary stuff!

  23. I totally love dystopia. I like thinking about how the world could be. Having said that I would recommend The Stand by Stephen King. While not a YA book, it is hands down my favorite book of all time. His writing is so special, and it is great in this one. Pick it up, you won't be sorry.

  24. If there’s one genre that I’m biased against it’s probably Crime Fiction. Not sure why, but my eyelids droop whenever someone mentions this genre.

    Yikes, question 2 is tough. Some of my recommendations cross over many genres (which is probably why I liked them so much), but here you go...

    Dystopia – Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)

    Science Fiction – The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

    Mystery / Thriller – Bag of Bones (Stephen King), The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield), The Shadow of the Wind (Carlow Ruiz Zafon)

  25. Personally - I am not fond of sci fi but JD Robb's In Death series might work for you - I enjoy them and they combine science fiction, mystery and romance.

    Personally I tend to avoid historicals

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  26. I am an unabashed (and totally hypocritical) genre-ist! My next discussion post is actually all about this.

    For me it's contemporary books that seem sad or like they deal with issues. I almost always throw up a big NO! to any book in that genre.

    I hear you about dystopians. I'm a lot less likely to read them too, especially if they seem slow and depressing. I like the sound of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner because those both sound fast-paced and more action-oriented.

  27. I don't think I am but I do like stories more when there's some sort of romance storyline. The only genre I dont read is non-fiction which I've never had in interest in. I've noticed a lot of YA dystopia being released this year and I've already read a couple of them already. I do like dystopia but wont read them back to back as it seems too depressing.

  28. The only genre (aside from non-fiction) that I am a bit biased towards is contemporary there have been a couple of books like the Catherine Anderson ones for example that I was ok with, but generally I much prefer other genre's to contemporary.

    It isn't a genre, but the one thing that will keep me from reading a book is if it has a sad ending. It's not because they are necessarily bad books (because there are a ton of great books like this that I just can't read) its just that I tend to get way too emotionally involved with books and if its sad I will feel down for a while afterwards. I know its weird, but I do.


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