The Out-of-Genre Experience

I meet a lot of writers who are landlocked in their reading. Focusing narrowly on their own genre or subgenre, they rarely pick up any other type of book. Explaining away this habit as market research, they sometimes get burnt out as readers and bored with what they're writing. But with no knowledge of any other type of book, they have a tough time adding outside elements or techniques to refresh their prose.

Sure, I'm a writer, but I was a reader first, and a great book still has the power to amaze and delight me (and switch off my internal editor). I'll read almost anything, as long as it transports me. Literary fiction, memoirs, historical novels, romance, mystery/suspense, fantasy, science fiction, and nonfiction crowd my keeper shelf. Yes, I read a lot of romantic suspense and suspense, my chosen genres, but I'd quickly tire of it if I couldn't refresh my pallet with an escape to, say, the building of a 12th century cathedral (Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth) or a memoir of a truly remarkable American childhood (Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle) or even the faux history of the Zombies Wars (Max Brooks' amazing World War Z).

Too often, writers get so locked up in the "science" of building a bestseller that they forget that it's an art, at times dusted over with a flurry of real magic. Recapturing the wonder is what an out-of-genre reading experience should be all about.

So what was the last book you read outside of your usual genre that truly captured your imagination? I'm always looking for something wonderful.


Amie Stuart said…
Colleen I've always read widely, though for a while after I first started writing, I coudln't read at all! It was terrible!

Right now I'm on a big urban fantasy kick with Carrie Vaughn and Patricia Briggs, but I'm also a big suspense reader. Funny enough I don't read in the genre I'm currently writing in.
elengreywriter said…
I love the image you used for this post. Currently reading The Library At Night - Alberto Manguel.

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